Loopholes closed in sex-offender registryPIERRE — A new state law expands the circumstances when sex offenders must list themselves on South Dakota’s sex-offender registry. Now they must sign up if they obtain a driver license, license a motor vehicle, get a postal address or register to vote in South Dakota.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — A new state law expands the circumstances when sex offenders must list themselves on South Dakota’s sex-offender registry.
Now they must sign up if they obtain a driver license, license a motor vehicle, get a postal address or register to vote in South Dakota.
Previously they had to put themselves on the registry only if they actually live, work or go to school in the state.
The goal is that South Dakota no longer can be used as an island by sex offenders trying to avoid having their names, photos, crimes and other identifying information on an official registry.
The Legislature passed the new law last winter at the request of Attorney General Larry Long.
Long and two attorneys from his staff, Scott Swier and John Strohman, briefed a special committee of the Legislature on sex-offender registry issues Wednesday.
“It prevents them from wandering the country unregistered and unchecked,” Swier told the lawmakers.
He said South Dakota’s registry had 4.6 million visits from Internet users during the past 14 months for an average of 12,500 daily, with a single-day high of about 80,000.
The new law also addressed an equal-protection problem. The state Supreme Court issued a November 2008 decision requiring that sex offenses committed by juveniles ages 15-17 be taken off the registry.
The reason was circuit judges could use what’s known as a suspended imposition of sentence for adult sex offenders but not for juvenile sex offenders.
A suspended imposition allows the offender to avoid listing on the registry if the offender meets special requirements set by the judge. An offender can get one suspended imposition.
The new law provides authority to judges for using suspended imposition with juvenile sex offenders.
There were 95 juvenile offenders listed on the South Dakota registry prior to the Supreme Court decision. Forty seven were removed. The others remain because their offenses were committed in other states or were violations of federal laws. The 47 won’t be re-listed however because those offenses occurred under the old law.
The study committee’s legal counsel, Reuben Bezpaletz, analyzed the 1,809 names currently on South Dakota’s registry. He said 420 of the people committed their offenses outside South Dakota.
Bezpaletz noted that many of them move to very small communities here, such as a Pennsylvania man who lives in Ludlow and a California man now in Fedora.
“I really wonder what the motivations of these folks are,” he said.
He speculated that one reason might be that they find it easier to comply with safety-zone requirements, such as not coming within 500 feet of places where children congregate such as schools and playgrounds.
Or, he said, they might think they’re dropping out of sight in a very small town. He said that’s probably an erroneous assumption because other residents of the communities will be watchful.
“They (residents) may be tolerant of pot smoking but they’re not tolerant of sex offenders,” he said.
Other trends which Bezpaletz found were people from small communities in eastern South Dakota have tended to move into the larger regional hubs such as Aberdeen and Mitchell and Huron, while sex offenders from those larger cities often relocated to Sioux Falls.
Likewise, in western South Dakota, he found that many offenders moved from smaller communities on tribal reservations to Rapid City.