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A 30-year sentence for sex offender failure to register: How far over the top will this go?

By Sandy . . . It happened in Arkansas, in Garland County, and, according to local media, the jury deliberated for 17 minutes before recommending the highest allowable sentence plus a $5,000.00 fine.

Granted, this registrant does have a rather colorful history of failing to register. He has several convictions for that offense in three states, including this one and another in Arkansas. However, his criminal record reveals only one other conviction, his sexual crime conviction in 2002.

Making this situation even more ludicrous, this most current conviction was not an actual refusal to register as required. He had registered, and timely, but he moved from that location and failed to report the move to local law enforcement within five days. He was shortly thereafter arrested, so they clearly had little difficulty locating him.

There is no indication whatsoever that he took advantage of his flying beneath the radar to commit any new crimes.

The jury had a lot of leeway. The conviction required a sentence with a range of from six to 30 years. The trial was only one day, so they weren’t exhausted from a lengthy ordeal. If they felt that he needed a sentence that would encourage him to take his registration duties more seriously, six or even ten years would have sufficed. But 30?

Some spot-checking suggests that a significant number of states classify failure-to-register as a low-level felony with an average maximum requirement, some even for additional offenses, of from less than a year up to around five years. Several states classify a first offense as a misdemeanor with subsequent offenses deemed a very low level felony. Federal convictions dictate an assessment of a fine and/or a prison sentence up to ten years.

Although not very many states use it, a classification of a misdemeanor is more appropriate considering that the sex offender registry, in every state, is a CIVIL REGULATORY SCHEME. It is not a criminal statute. Why should failing to update it be subject to habitual offender enhancement, which is what results in ridiculously high sentencing? Habitual enhancement is intended to be used when new serious or violent crimes have been committed.

The words “classified as a habitual offender” are in the very first sentence of the media piece about this registrant. This is what enables the offense to be charged as a class A felony and such a high sentence given. It is up to the district attorney to decide how to charge an offense, and most states allow this enhancement to be used in cases of repeat failure to register.

Of the states that were spot checked, extremes for failure to register are astronomical. New York appears to dictate no jail time but only probation for up to seven years if repeat, less if first time (the NY SOR has been contacted to verify this; when they respond, it will be updated). On the high end, Arkansas’ 30 years is the highest, with West Virginia at 25 and Louisiana at 20 in second and third places. Only a fourth of the states have been checked, but the southern states appear to tend to have the highest penalties.

However, as stated, many states allow “habitual offender enhancements,” which can add many years to even the top allowable penalty for its classification. So, theoretically, Illinois’ top allowable penalty of seven years for second and subsequent charges of failure to register could be “enhanced” up to 20 or 30 years. Only a very few, such as New Mexico, have been found to have specific law prohibiting the use of this enhancement when the only offense was repeat failure to register, law that other states should emulate.

Failure to register–or to update registration elements timely–in the absence of an actual criminal act, should NOT be eligible for long prison sentences or heavy fines, whether allowed through a higher charging of repeat offenses or through enhanced “habitual offender” penalties.

Sandy Rozek

Written by 

Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

21 Thoughts to “A 30-year sentence for sex offender failure to register: How far over the top will this go?”

  1. AvatarTiredofthisyet

    What pisses me off about the whole failure to register involving any prison sentence. Is that the registry was deemed a civil penalty….otherwise the registry as a whole would be unconstitutional.

    I don’t know of any civil charge that includes any jail time much less 30 years.

    1. AvatarJohn B Lester

      Remember that we are scapegoats for something or the other. In the old days they would hang people for less in vigilante justice
      This is not the land of the free. Far from it
      If you are a younger person I would definitely emigrate to northern Europe or Israel.

  2. AvatarBarre Flynn

    This represents a country that has no sense of just and fair penalties. I was on the registry for 20 years. It was not just an administrative move, but it was continued punishment and exposure to people who have no problem being violent. It cost my son a good job. I was unable to travel freely. And somehow, we don’t see how this violates constitutional rights. In NYC where Marty Golden, a state Senator, once told us that he made laws that would gather him votes. He was not that interested in whether they worked. Very sad, as he was the one who created some insane laws. I as associated with Mustard Seed Forensic Counseling and we have seen some horrible decisions regarding the registry. The article above is a very sad commentary of our nations failing legal system.

  3. AvatarCherokeeJack

    But, but, I thought the registry was NOT punishment? Oh yeah, the rules are made up as they go along. What other so called “Non punitive” scheme can land you in jail, prison, probation etc?
    None that I am aware of other than the “not punishment” registry. Seems there are two sets of rules depending on if you had a sexual charge vs. Any other crime on the books.
    *My opinions, however, we all know what is going on.

    1. AvatarRose Szilagyi

      It would be better to plea to a charge of manslaughter. I’m being sarcastic.

  4. AvatarGrace

    But you can get drunk and kill two kids and be out in as little as fifteen years and still drive past a playground

    1. AvatarTim

      realize that the extreme majority of traffic fatalities are caused by sober people and/or sober people texting…

  5. AvatarSean

    Was it for FTR or FTR with history? I am not sorry. I have not been in trouble since release and think people who FTR and reoffend only make it harder for me.

    1. AvatarN.Meaux

      FtR isnt reoffending though. Just because some places classify as a crime, doesn’t make it so. It isn’t a moral affront, it doesn’t harm people. Its wearing a scarlet letter, and the public good isn’t served by forcing someone to wear it.

      I’m all for registry removal, especially since my state labels anyone in possession of 3 of more pictures as a distributor and lists them for 20 years as opposed to 5 or 10.

  6. AvatarScott M

    We, in the USA and especially in (it seems ) the Southern States have lost their minds. Wether its Castrations, to 30 year Sentences for Civil Violations, to Banishment regulations….none of it makes any sense. Im sure that all, or the vast majority of the Law makers have been presented with solid facts that dispell most if not all of the Myth`s that surrounds Sex Offenses. They continue to get more and more Unjust. Is the Madness ever going to end? We are not Protecting anyone with all of these ignorant Laws. I am convinced that its all Political, Law makers are too chicken to admit they are wrong for fear of losing their power, votes and most of all money.

  7. AvatarTim in WI

    Blatant denial of punitive intent behind the regime. What’s worse is the people are convinced the database driven infrastructure can protect the sovereignty of their children and most vulnerable, when it is the inverse which is in effect. Nothing has made the people more vulnerable to tyranny.

  8. Avatarobvious answer

    30 years for a Non-punitive offence. 20 years for many crimes is considered a life sentence. 30 years for failure to update a Costco card.. I told you 25 years ago it was only going to get worse until people physically fight back and you laughed.. still laughing? NOW I’m going to add my next prediction.. while y’all only looking at what’s happening at home the US government is making it more impossible for you to travel abroad. Same game as WW2. Stop fighting local battles. They are lost. You better start fighting your right to travel because escape from prison State America is your only chance.. when those international doors are closed for good then gov gloves come off and you going to see horror you’ve only read about in Schindler’s List…. And you going to be the target with no where to run and no one to care.. I have warned and warned and nobody do anything until it’s already to late.. last window almost closed folks.

    1. AvatarWilliam Hart

      I agree with you 1000%. I don’t understand why “they” want to make it so hard for us to leave. But it’s just as troubling that so many countries readily accept the US version. It seems that the US’s biggest export is now draconian laws.

  9. AvatarTim

    The elephant in the room: this person did not have any blackmail worthy goods on high level officials.

  10. AvatarAj

    My original sentence on a plea bargin, was 30 years. Served 12 1/2 then the rest on parole.( No early getting off at all allowed for us.)
    Now a 30 year sentence for failure to register.
    America is caught up in the really big issues of the day “Abortions.”
    As far as i can see, we need to chalkenge direct to supreme courts. I cannot believe that people are so blind as to not see that it is an extension of punishment, not to mention the continued violation of our consitution.
    I am afraid that the only real way to end this would be through violent measures.
    From what i see, it certianly heading that way.
    Keep in mind America, the most danger2beast on earth, is a human being who has absolutely nothing left to lose.

    1. AvatarTyrus Charles Young

      The country is going bonkers with inconsistent reasoning. I agree with the comments above and feel that if there are criminal penalties for not registering it negates the position that the registration is a civil penalty in the first place. The “woke” agenda is trying to allow pre-pubescent children to be able to choose decisions regarding the equipment on their bodies without restriction or parental oversight. So, we have young minors deciding what to do with their sexual apparatus yet deny them the acceptance to use the same equipment for what God intended it for. Can’t have it both ways, guys. If a minor is too immature to agree to consensual sex, then they are too immature to decide to change it. Haven’t found teenage surgeons. Or eliminate the crime and the registry is useless.

  11. AvatarMax Freeman

    There is absolutely no doubt the law is totally wrong about the registry and we have been treated unjustly for many years past our original sentencing. While we are fighting for our rights to live our lives freely and able to prosper once again. We also need to fight for compensation for all the years we have been unable to pursue the right to live freely and prosper as to our constitutional rights. I’m afraid that if we don’t include a class action lawsuit compensation request in our litigations all may be lost for us to even try later once this whole mess has been dealt with. My life for one, as I’m sure so many others has been financially devastated to a serious degree. I now live in poverty with only half of the average SSI income. due to the fact I couldn’t pursue employment under normal circumstances.

  12. AvatarAnonymous

    Those jurors just signed a $720,000 check for the state of Arkansas. Do they really think that was money well spent?

  13. AvatarJim

    This will continue to get worse and very bad unless we stop it. Get together and do the “peaceful protests” like the black lives matter protests. Protests that will cost this country billions. That will be the one and ONLY WAY to get the country’s attention. The only way to get your life back. Period.

  14. AvatarSasha

    Reading the title made me ill. I understand that the article does explain that he has multiple violations. However, a 30-year sentence for something akin to administrative is totally off the rails. Many people do not understand the Civil penalties and restrictions that are upon people who are forced to register. It affects travel, social life, social media life, family, employment, education, it is a constant battle physically as well as mentally for many people. Has anyone ever had a credit check and find out that although you may have passed a background check, the Civil registration part shows up on a credit history, which can deny you employment or other things?.
    Till you can get the justice and courts to realize that this scheme is a disguise nothing will change.

  15. AvatarSasha

    I met someone in New York state who was given at least 7 to 10 years for failure to register. He informed me that he just didn’t want to register. He stated they have all the information about him and he felt that he should be free to go wherever he wanted to go and move about the way he wanted without answering to anyone. He said the minimum they give people is one to three and you’re going to do with all three years. And then after that they stack them up.
    Now that he is older, he stated that he’s going to register because he has no other alternative.
    What a waste of resource!

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