Sex Traffickers Will Have To Register In Wyoming If Gordon Doesn't Veto Bill

Of the five attempts Wyoming legislators tried to change the state’s sex offender registry this session, just one made it to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk. The bill would require human and sex traffickers be added to the state’s sex offender registry.

CM
Clair McFarland

March 11, 20244 min read

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Of the five attempts Wyoming lawmakers launched to change the state’s sex offender registry this session, just one passed the state Legislature.

Senate File 34 proposes to add human and sex traffickers directly into state’s list of convicts required to register as sex offenders. The crime was referenced in a definitions section of the law prior but wasn’t included specifically on the list.

If Gov. Mark Gordon does not veto it, the law will become effective July 1.

Mercy Provision Gone

SF 34 originally contained a provision letting some third-degree sex abusers petition to get off the registry after 25 years. It would have applied to a person who, while in a position of authority like boss or teacher, had sex with a subordinate who was 16 or 17 years old and who was fewer than eight years younger than the offender.

The Senate Judiciary Committee tried to tweak that to remove the eight-year age gap and to exempt all offenders in that category regardless of age difference.  

The House Judiciary Committee undid the tweak and restored the eight-year criterium.

The Senate bristled, rejecting the House’s change in a March 4 vote, so the bill went to a Joint Conference Committee, where lawmakers haggled for a compromise.

In the end, the conference committee left neither mercy provision in the bill.

“I feel a little bit we got derailed by humoring that (provision) as much as we did, because that’s not what we were trying to do here,” Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, said during a Thursday meeting of the JCC. The intent of the bill, she continued, was to add the sex trafficking offenses to make Wyoming compliant with federal law.

She said she didn’t believe the third-degree sex abuse crime needed to be moved to the lesser category at all, but that she and her peers could discuss that during the interim months between legislative sessions.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said he would agree to strip out the mercy provision to get the bill passed, but said he hoped to see the discussion grow into a new bill during the interim.

“The position of authority thing is torturous in some circumstances and pretty tenuous,” said Case. He then teased conference committee Chair Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, by saying, “Are you in a position of authority over me right now?”

“Absolutely,” said Landen.

Case said offering the mercy to such convicts wouldn’t unleash harm necessarily: They’d still have to petition a judge to get removed from the list after 25 years.

Landen told the Senate on Thursday that it should reconsider the issue in the coming months.

Others

Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, had presented a bill that would have barred sex offenders whose victims were minors from working or volunteering in places with a heavy concentration of minors, like arcades and some fast-food restaurants.

The bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-1 vote but didn’t make it onto the Senate floor for a full- chamber vote.

Other attempts to tweak the sex offender registry failed.

Rep. Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton, had offered a bill, House Bill 152, barring all sex offenders from getting near child care facilities while children are in them. That one failed introduction in the House of Representatives by falling five votes short of the two-thirds threshold required for non-budget bills during the budget session.

Tacking A Felony Onto A Misdemeanor

Another sex-offender registry bill, Senate File 31, would have required people convicted of sharing obscene material with kids to register as sex offenders.

That one failed its third reading in the Senate, 17-13, after some lawmakers said it was unjust to make people register as sex offenders (risking a felony conviction if they failed the registry’s rules) when their original offense was only a misdemeanor.

Other lawmakers said the bill would penalize and excessively stigmatize 18-year-olds caught sending nudes to 17-year-olds.

Kids Against Kids

Rep. Christopher Knapp, R-Gillette, brought a bill, House Bill 153, proposing to keep juvenile delinquents on the sex offender registry for life if they raped or sexually abused anyone younger than 13.

Juvenile delinquents adjudicated for the state’s most serious sex crimes can now petition to get off the registry after 10 years of having a clean record.

Knapp’s bill would have changed that, but the House of Representatives did not consider it for introduction by this year’s deadline.

The bill also proposed to remove some adult sex abusers’ chance to get off the list after 25 years, if their victims were between 13 and 15 during the crime.

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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CM

Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter