Edmond police responding to a public intoxication call discovered a transient sex offender living within 2000 feet of a school. Police say Shaun Anthony Head, 38, had failed to register as a sex offender and was staying at an apartment complex near Edmond Memorial High School in violation of sex offender residency requirements.
When an officer asked Head why he had not registered as required, the suspect responded that he no longer had to register as a result of the state Supreme Court's ruling in Starkey v. Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
Unfortunately for Head, although the Starkey decision will allow thousands of convicted sex offenders to come off of the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry, the decision does not take full effect until the DOC has had time to review a list of more than 10,000 registrants who may be eligible for removal. Since the Supreme Court's order on June 25, 2013, the agency has whittled the list down to just under one thousand registrants remaining.
So what is the Starkey case that will allow some convicted sex offenders to be removed from the state sex offender registry?
In 2007, the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) was amended to require the Department of Corrections to assign each sex offender a numerical risk level. In Oklahoma, the risk level assessment is based strictly upon the offense for which the person was convicted, and it is meant to determine the individual's risk of re-offense and threat to public safety. Level 1 sex offenders, considered the lowest risk, must register for 15 years; Level 2 for 25 years; and Level 3 for life.
At issue in the Starkey case was the DOC's decision to apply risk level and registration length retroactively. James M. Starkey was convicted in 1998 in Texas for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl and was required to register as a sex offender for 10 years. He moved to Oklahoma shortly after his conviction, and was required to continue to register as a sex offender in Oklahoma.
However, in 2007, shortly before his sex offender registration was set to expire, Starkey was notified by the DOC that under the new law, he was designated as a Level 3 sex offender based on the Oklahoma equivalent of the crime for which he was convicted in Texas. As a Level 3 sex offender, he would be required to register for life.
Starkey challenged the constitutionality of the retroactive application of sex offender risk levels, saying they could not apply to registration requirements levied before their existence. Last summer, the Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed with Starkey, requiring the DOC to begin immediately reviewing sex offender registrants and removing those whose registration periods were retroactively extended by the 2007 SORA amendment.
Head was convicted of two counts of second degree rape in 2000 in Cleveland County. Since that time, he has been convicted of failure to register as a sex offender multiple times between 2009 and 2012, not including an outstanding warrant for failure to register in Florida. Whether or not Head will be eligible for removal from the sex offender registry when the review of registrants is complete, he was certainly not eligible for removal in his previous pre-Starkey cases.
If you or someone you love was convicted of a sex crime prior to 2007 and had sex offender registration requirements extended as a result of retroactive risk level assignment in 2007, contact an attorney to see if you should be removed from the registry in accordance with the Starkey decision.