A person’s name is an important part of who they are. Name changes to happen for a lot of reasons – marriages, adoptions, and.. Protests? Well, in the case of one Minnesota man, a protest is exactly what he hoped his name change to be.
What’s In a (Sex Offender’s) Name?
The Minnesota man who attempted to change his name to “Better Off Dead” is a convicted sex offender. He was convicted for several sex crimes in the 90s, and his sentence should have been up in 2008. However, due to an unusual Minnesota law, he ended up civilly committed and remains in state custody.
His attempt to change his name was a signal of his dissatisfaction with his circumstances. The civil commitment process doesn’t include things like term limits or a clear release date.
As this Minnesota man has clearly expressed, he feels like he should be “Better Off Dead” if he’s going to remain in this state of limbo.
Collateral Consequences for Minnesota Sex Offenders
Being convicted of a sex crime in Minnesota carries more consequences than simple incarceration or fines. There are serious collateral consequences, as well.
The term “collateral consequences” refers to all of the residual effects outside of the standard punishments most people associate with a conviction. For example, DUI convictions typically result in the suspension of your driver’s license. The loss of driving privileges is considered a collateral consequence.
Sex crimes carry many other collateral consequences like societal shame and difficulty finding employment. Especially in Minnesota, a sex crime conviction can and will follow you for the rest of your life.
Minnesota Sex Offender Program
The man who wanted to be known as “Better Off Dead” ended up in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP). This is a unique program in the US. In most states, once a criminal serves their sentence, they are released, perhaps on parole.
However, when Minnesota sex offenders have served their criminal sentence, they may be “civilly committed.” In essence, the county with jurisdiction over their case can petition to have them committed indefinitely. This program has particularly poor rates of release, too.
MN Offenders Civilly Committed Have No Clear Path of Release
In the entire decades-long history of the program, only nine inmates have ever been fully released. All of those have happened since a class action lawsuit in 2012. For context, there are currently 731 inmates in the MSOP.
While a 2015 court decision ruled that the MSOP as it stood was unconstitutional, the 8th Circuit Court reversed that decision, and the Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal.
Therefore, the program remains as it stands, a frankly alarming potential consequence for Minnesota sex crime convictions.
Mandatory Sex Offender Registry in MN
There are other potential collateral consequences for a sex crime conviction in Minnesota. Even if you do not end up incarcerated in the MSOP, you will likely be required to register as a predatory offender.
Who Must Register
Joining this registry is mandatory for criminal sexual conduct, felonious indecent exposure, solicitation or statutory rape of a minor, or possession of pedophilic images. The mandatory minimum amount of time on the registry is 10 years. Many offenders are required to register for life.
What Happens If You Don’t
A conviction for failing to register lengthens the time on the registry by five years. A first offense also carries a 366-day prison sentence, while subsequent convictions may carry a two-year minimum prison term.
Collateral Consequences of Being a Registrant
Being on the registry carries its own collateral consequences. People in the registry must report all changes of address, employment, schools, and vehicles to the registry. They may not work at schools, stores with changing rooms, or in the healthcare field.
Many landlords will not rent to registered offenders. If you happen to be a parent, a sex offender conviction is a quick way to lose custody of your child. Regardless of whether the offense involved children, courts do not look kindly on custodial sex offenders.
The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act – Is It Enough?
The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act addresses the existence of these consequences, but it does not fix the problem. It mandates that all collateral consequences be combined into a single document. However, the resulting document is not particularly clear.
Receiving a conviction for a sex crime will have lifelong repercussions. Not only will you have a criminal record, but you will also most likely be placed on a public registry. This registry leads to significant social stigma, on top of the collateral consequences of the conviction.
Avoid the domino effect of collateral consequences after a sex crime conviction by finding the right Minnesota criminal defense attorney can save you a lifetime of consequences. Don’t face this kind of case alone.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).