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Butler v Jones

12-17-2013 Oklahoma:

Butler v Jones

On June 28, 2000, Petitioner/Appellee, Jerry Dale Butler (hereinafter "Butler") pled guilty to two counts of "Sexual Abuse of a Minor Child" pursuant to 10 O.S., § 7115 in Sequoyah County, Oklahoma and received two five-year deferred sentences which ran consecutively.1 Sometime thereafter, Butler began registration under the Sex Offenders Registration Act, 57 O.S., § 581 et seq. (hereinafter "SORA").2

On April 1, 2010, the district court in Sequoyah County issued an order expunging Butler's plea from the record in accordance with 22 O.S., § 991c, thereby deleting all references to his name from the docket sheet, deleting the public index of the filing of the charge, and providing no information concerning the confidential file shall be revealed or released without order of a judge or district court.

On June 18, 2010, Butler filed a Petition for Injunction to permanently enjoin the Respondent/Appellant, Justin Jones ex rel., State of Oklahoma ex rel., Oklahoma Department of Corrections (hereinafter "Department") from requiring him to continue registering under SORA.

He argued requiring him to register violates his rights to equal protection of the laws and to due process of law "under the Constitutions of the United States, Amendments V and XIV, and of the State of Oklahoma, Art. 2, §§ 2 and 7, and Article 5, § 59."

His main and most developed argument is his equal protection challenge. He alleged 57 O.S., § 582 (E) violates his right to equal protection because it treats persons with expunged records in Oklahoma differently from persons whose records were expunged in other states. Subsection E of § 582 was added in 2009 and provided:
E. The provisions of the Sex Offenders Registration Act shall not apply to any such person who has received a criminal history records expungement for a conviction in another state for a crime or attempted crime which, if committed or attempted in this state, would be a crime or an attempt to commit a crime provided for in any said laws listed in subsection A of this section. 2009 Okla. Sess. Laws c. 404, § 2 (eff. Nov. 1, 2009).
Butler also asserted § 582 (E) offended Article 5, § 59 of the Oklahoma Constitution which concerns special laws and he is being denied due process of the law available to persons whose criminal history records were expunged in other states. He asserted there is no legitimate state purpose for denying Oklahoma defendants in deferred sentence cases the same privilege as that accorded to citizens of Oklahoma whose criminal history records were expunged in any of the other states.

... ... ...


¶ 17 We find the district court gave deference to an unlawful expungement over valid law requiring Butler to register under SORA for his lifetime. The district court reached an erroneous conclusion that Butler's case presented an "unusual and narrow circumstance" which justified it ignoring valid and existing law.

We also find the provisions of 57 O.S., § 582 (E) do not deny Butler equal protection of the law. At the time of Butler's plea, the law required a person who received any probationary term for a crime provided for in 10 O.S., § 7115, if the offense involved sexual abuse, to be designated an "aggravated" sex offender and to register under SORA for life. Requiring Butler to register under SORA based upon the law in effect at the time of his plea is consistent with our recent holding in Cerniglia v. Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections, 2013 OK 81, ___ P.3d ___.

We reverse the district court's order granting a permanent injunction against the Department and require the district court to order Butler's registration under SORA be reinstated for his lifetime because of his "aggravated" sex offender status.


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