Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

March 7, 2014

Sex offender bill reaches House

Undersheriff: Issue not a problem at local level

TAHLEQUAH — By a unanimous 44-0 vote of the Oklahoma Senate, a bill that would make it more difficult for registered sex offenders to change their names has reached the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 1421, authored by Kyle Loveless, Oklahoma City Republican, underwent its first reading in the House on Feb. 27.

Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said he did not know of any instances, during his service with the department, of registered sex offenders evading detection with new names for any length of time.

“The way I understand it, they still need to register as sex offenders by the name under which they were convicted,” he said. “I’ve not been aware of a problem.”

Chennault said the bill may be intended to close a loophole by which offenders can deflect scrutiny from the community.

“From the perspective of law enforcement, we can still track them under their original names, and any name changes would be listed additionally as aliases,” he said. “However, a name change might make it difficult for the public to look up offenders and their convictions.”

The text of the bill would amend 12 Oklahoma Statute 2011, Section 1631 to read:

“Any natural person, who has been domiciled in this state or who has been residing upon any military reservation located in said state, for more than 30 days, and has been an actual resident of the county or such military reservation situated in said county, or county in which the military reservation is situated, for more than 30 days, next preceding the filing of action, may petition for a change of name in a civil action in the district court; provided, no person who is required to register as a sex offender pursuant to the Oklahoma Sex Offenders Registration Act may petition for a change of name. ...”

In a press release from the Oklahoma State Senate Communications Division, Loveless stated that a sex offender initially passed a routine background check under a new name when applying as a nursery worker at the church Loveless attends. After discovering the applicant had applied under a changed name, Loveless said it was revealed the person was a sex offender.

Loveless further referenced a 2011 case where a sex offender was hired as a school bus driver in Lawton after changing his name three times. Loveless also claims there is a sex offender in Tulsa who has changed his name nine times.

If passed by the House and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin, the amended language would go into effect on Nov. 1.

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com

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