After Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed legislation aimed at clarifying Oklahoma’s sex offender registration, there was confusion about what the bill would have done.
House Bill 2608 would have modified the existing sex offender registration law to require convicted sex offenders living within the boundaries of an Indian reservations register with tribal law enforcement in addition to the municipal police department or county sheriff’s office, something that federal law already requires.
Stitt struck down the bill claiming it would have subjected some Oklahomans to tribal authorities that have no jurisdiction over them.
The Legislature could still act to override Stitt’s veto during the final weeks of its session.
We reviewed state and federal law and spoke with local law enforcement and other sources to fact-check claims about the bill.
Claim: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has run into problems with sex offenders who are tribal citizens living on Indian land who were not required or refused to register with the state.
Source: Bill authors Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, and Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, have made this claim in the media and when presenting the bill in the Legislature.
“They already are telling them to do that now, they just are refusing to do so,” Bullard said at a committee hearing on the bill in April.
Fact check: Mostly false
The Department of Corrections requested the bill in case a sex offender refused to register with their local law enforcement office, said Kay Thompson, spokeswoman for the agency.
“This piece of legislation would not have actually changed the current registration system,” Thompson told The Frontier. “It was just aimed at clarity, making sure everyone had the answers they needed.”
Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Roebuck told The Frontier that its sex offender unit had not run into any instances of sex offenders who are tribal members refusing to register.
Claim: There’s no gap in Oklahoma’s sex offender registry system.
Source: “There is absolutely no gap in our registry system, all sex offenders must register with the state of Oklahoma,” Stitt said during a press briefing on May 5.
Fact check: Mostly true
It’s true that people convicted of certain sex crimes are already required to register with the state.
Humphrey said the Department of Corrections brought him the example of a person who only registered with a tribe and not with the state.
“I had the people who deal with this every day telling me that they have a case where this has fallen through the cracks,” he said.
Humphrey said there has been confusion in the state since the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision, and the bill was intended to provide clarity that a person who registers with a tribe must also still register with the state.
Claim: The bill would have subjected non-tribal members to the jurisdiction and authority of the tribal courts.
Source: Stitt spokeswoman Carly Atchison said on Twitter “The bill would have subjected non-tribal members to the jurisdiction and authority of the tribal courts. That’s why the governor vetoed it.
Fact check: False
The bill contains no mention of tribal courts or making non-tribal citizens subject to those courts. The federal Adam Walsh Act already requires that convicted sex offenders register with tribal law enforcement if they live, work or attend school within a tribe’s jurisdiction. In addition, some federal laws subject non-tribal citizens to tribal court systems when they are accused of committing some domestic violence, sex and human trafficking crimes in Indian Country. But HB 2608 does not address those issues.
Atchison said she stands by her comments.
“Tribal law enforcement operates as part of tribal justice systems, which, of course, include tribal courts. If an individual is required to register with a tribal law enforcement agency, the individual is, in this case, forcibly, submitting to the court system having jurisdiction over tribal law enforcement,” she said in response to The Frontier. “Oklahoma citizens should not be required to register with and/or effectively submit to the jurisdiction of law enforcement that has no jurisdiction over them.”
True: A claim that is backed up by factual evidence
Mostly true: A claim that is mostly true but also contains some inaccurate details
Mixed: A claim that contains a combination of accurate and inaccurate or unproven information
True but misleading: A claim that is factually true but omits critical details or context
Mostly false: A claim that is mostly false but also contains some accurate details
False: A claim that has no basis in fact