S.D. legislative panel looks at sex offender registry lawsPIERRE, S.D. (AP) — People should get a chance to have their names removed from South Dakota's registry of sex offenders if they do not pose a threat to public safety, a state legislative panel was told Tuesday.
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — People should get a chance to have their names removed from South Dakota's registry of sex offenders if they do not pose a threat to public safety, a state legislative panel was told Tuesday.
Current law requires that nearly all those convicted of sex offenses must remain on the registry for life. But offenders, their relatives and some defense lawyers said the law should be changed so some can be taken off the list after a certain time if they commit no more crimes.
Jody Delgado of Huron said her husband was convicted of sexual contact with a minor in the 1980s before she married him, and that she knows he will never commit another sex crime. He had to sign up when South Dakota's sex offender registry was created in 1994, about a decade after he finished his probation.
She said registering caused problems that worsened after the state put the offenders list on the Internet in 2006, Delgado said. Parents would no longer let their children visit the Delgado home, she said, and her son encountered trouble when a teacher and other children noted that his father was on the registry.
Delgado said her husband's conviction involved an underage girl who initiated the contact.
``I think it's time to let him move on,' Delgado said.
The legislative committee is investigating whether to change any laws governing the sex offender registry. It may decide later this fall to recommend measures to the 2010 Legislature.
Sen. Gene Abdallah, R-Sioux Falls, the panel's chairman, said lawmakers are unlikely to give much of a break to those who committed serious sex crimes. ``There isn't anybody on this committee who's going to ever let them off the list,' he said.
But for cases involving less severe crimes, Abdallah said his panel could consider ways for people to seek removal from the registry. Different tiers of crimes could be created, based on the severity of the offenses, allowing people to be removed after a certain time if they had committed lower-level crimes, he said.
South Dakota now has more than 2,500 sex offenders on the registry.
Assistant Attorney General Scott Swier said about 1,200 have been removed from the registry since 1994, the vast majority because they moved out of the state. About half the juvenile sex offenders were removed after last year's state Supreme Court decision that found the law unfairly treated juveniles differently than adult offenders, he said.
In addition, several court cases are filed each year by people seeking removal, Swier said.
State law allows people to ask for removal from the registry after 10 years, but only if they were adjudicated as a juvenile or convicted of statutory rape when younger than 21. The crime also cannot involve a victim younger than 13.
A number of witnesses told the legislative panel that they believe violent rapists, those who hurt children and others who present a threat to society should remain on the registry for life. But they said convicts found to pose little or no threat to society should get a chance to escape the stigma of being on the registry.
Ryan Kolbeck of the Minnehaha Public Defenders Office, speaking on his own behalf, said he believes some people should be removed because there is little chance they will commit further crimes. Investigations conducted before judges sentence convicts can determine whether the inmates pose a threat to public safety, he said.
The registry should warn the public only about offenders who pose a risk, Kolbeck said.
Offenders would have an additional incentive to comply with the law if they could be erased from the list after behaving themselves for a decade or so, Kolbeck said.