Court Upholds Special Sex Offender Driver’s License in Oklahoma

By: Ryan Gallagher December 22, 2017
Driver's licenses bearing the term “sex offender” will still be mandatory for Oklahoma convicts after a late November Federal District Court ruling.
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Aggravated sex offenders in Oklahoma will continue to carry driver’s licenses disclosing their crimes after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the state’s practice constitutional.

On November 29, the court ruled in favor of the license label; 12 judges unanimously declared the law a legal civil regulation rather than a criminal punishment.

Oklahoma legislators established the law back in 2007, which forces aggravated sex offenders to have special labels on their driver’s licenses indicating their conviction. However, a sex offender who disagreed with the law disputed the regulation.

Ray Carney was convicted of sexually abusing a child in 2010, making him a candidate for the sex offender driver’s license label. But as his January 2018 release from prison grew nearer, Carney decided to hire a lawyer in the hopes of proving the sex offender license label unconstitutional, saying he would be “ostracized from many aspects of civil society.”

Judges did not see it the same way Carney did, and noted the legislature had a “rational basis” for imposing the sex offender label when considering its effect on public safety. Michael Velchik, the assistant solicitor general for the Oklahoma Attorney General's office who argued the case against Carney, was able to cite a situation where the law did its job to protect Oklahomans.

Michael Slatton, a convicted sex offender, had kidnapped an 8-year-old girl in 2014. While Slatton shopped for children’s items at a store, a clerk noticed the sex offender label on Slatton’s driver’s license and promptly called police, leading to Slatton’s arrest.

“This regulation works,” said Velchik. “It already saved the life of an 8-year-old girl.”

While Carney can appeal the case, it seems his license will in fact carry the label. For the foreseeable future, the law will continue to stand for the safety of Oklahoma residents, like the young kidnapping victim.

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