SHERIDAN — Sex offenders in Wyoming may face increased registration fees this July in preparation for the 2019 expiration of the grant supporting Wyoming’s sex offender registration program.
At the request of the Wyoming Attorney General’s office, legislators appointed to the Judiciary Committee from both the House and Senate worked together over the interim to propose a bill to create the sex offender registration account, which would house increased registration and reporting fees. The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill with no opposition and the Appropriations Committee passed it with a 5-2 vote. The bill survived through the second reading Monday and goes through the third reading for consent Tuesday.
Wyoming is currently home to 1,548 active sex offenders who are out of prison. Of those, 35 percent received convictions outside of Wyoming and moved to the state, according to a fact sheet from Chief Deputy Attorney General John Knepper. Knepper, previously from Sheridan, tallied up the total cost of running the sex offender registry program for the state.
Wyoming runs the registry program, which costs $248,958.50 each year, with grant funds from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The software cost is paid through 2019, but there is not a funding stream in place to cover it any further,” Knepper said on the fact sheet. “The U.S. Department of Justice has already denied grant funding for costs after 2019.”
In order to continue the registry, revenues need to flow from somewhere other than the U.S. Department of Justice. All sex offenders who were either convicted of a sexual offense or choose to live in Wyoming must register for life.
The bill puts a registration account in place by July 1, 2017, and requires offenders to pay a state registration fee not to exceed $120 at initial registration. In addition, the offender must also pay a county registration fee that is 25 percent of the state fee. County fees for registration and reporting will stay in each county, with the state fees going into the sex offender registration account created by the bill. Those unable to afford the fees may submit an indigent application. Offenders who willfully fail to pay required fees will be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $750 and six months of incarceration at the county jail, the bill proposes.
Although offenders register for life, Knepper said Wyoming law permits individuals to petition to be removed from the offender registry.
“In recent years, 406 individuals have left the registry, and 164 have come off after a petition,” Knepper said.
The registry itself remains beneficial for both the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and the community, SCSO’s administrative clerk Mike Smith said.
“It makes people aware of who’s out there and where they’re located,” Smith said of the registry’s impact to Sheridan County residents. “It helps us keep an eye on them.”
Smith, who maintains the sex offender registration at the SCSO along with other duties, said most of the Sheridan County registrants are compliant. Including juvenile registrants, Sheridan County hosts 74 sex offenders who are active in the system. Juvenile information is not publishable, but requirements for juvenile offenders remain the same for adult offenders and includes registering for life.
Smith works to keep all information up-to-date and accurate. For any citizen concerned about a possible offender or who needs a question answered about the registry, Smith said he can help.
“If anybody has any concerns about a sex offender and whether or not they’re compliant or what they can or can’t do, we’d be more than happy to answer as much as I can,” Smith said.
The Wyoming Sex Offender Registry is located on the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation website.
Visitors can search the registry by address, city, non-compliant offenders, Internet names or email addresses and by phone number.
Citizens may also register to receive email alerts notifying them when an offender registers in the area.