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KS: Convicted of a Drug Crime, Registered with Sex Offenders


By Maurice Chammah

In Kansas, even many minor drug offenders must appear on the state’s public registry. A new bill would change that.

Amid the farm animals and food stalls at the Kansas State Fair last September, Amy Byers came upon a booth run by the state’s Bureau of Investigation. There was a computer you could use to search your address and find out if you live near a sex offender. You could also search by name.

When her friends began joking that she should type in her own name, Byers panicked. She knew that she was on the list, although not for a sex crime. A decade ago, she was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. She pled guilty and avoided prison time. Now 29, she says she lives a clean life in Hutchinson, a small town in the center of the state.

But under Kansas law, having a drug conviction means that her photograph and other identifying details are displayed in the same public registry that includes more than 10,000 convicted sex offenders. Many registrants also appear on third-party websites like “Offender Radar” and “Sex Offender Spy,” and it’s easy for a visitor to miss the single word — “drug” — that differentiates Byers’ crime from those the public judges much more harshly. “People who don’t know me are going to look at me like I’m a horrible person for being on that list,” she said.

Lawmakers have long justified sex offender registries as a way to notify people about potentially dangerous neighbors or acquaintances, while critics say they fail to prevent crime and create a class of social outcasts. Over the years, several states have expanded their registries to add perpetrators of other crimes, including kidnapping, assault, and murder. Tennessee added animal abuse. Utah added white collar crimes. A few states considered but abandoned plans for hate crime and domestic abuse registries. At least five states publicly display methamphetamine producers.

But Kansas went furthest, adding an array of lesser drug crimes; roughly 4,600 people in the state are now registered as drug offenders. As deaths from opioids rise, some public officials have focused on addiction as a public health issue. Kansas offers a different approach, as law enforcement officials argue that the registry helps keep track of people who may commit new offenses and cautions the public to avoid potentially dangerous areas and individuals. At the same time, many registrants say it can be hard to move on when their pasts are just a click away for anyone to see.

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  1. C

    “The Kansas legislature is currently considering a bill proposed by the state’s sentencing commission that would remove drug offenders from the registry. “It is a drain on resources with no science, studies, or data to justify it,” defense lawyer Jennifer Roth told lawmakers at an early February hearing.”

    Lawmakers aren’t interested in all that science mumbo jumbo, but good luck. If your argument is compelling enough for the drug offender registry to be discontinued, it should apply to all registries.

    • AJ

      …especially a registry of offenses with significantly lower recidivism than drug offenses.

    • CR

      Let’s hope the legislature makes no change to the drug conviction registration laws. We need as many public registries to exist as possible. Only people who have committed murder (notice I did not say “murderers”) have a lower recidivism rate than people who have committed a sexual offense. So the more registries for other classes of offenses, the better (for us).

  2. Registries for all! 😡

    Good for Kansas! Registries for everyone … even including DUI drivers, small time drug users, and bad check writers!! For everyone!

  3. Don’t tread on me

    Which essentially means 65% of the population of Kansas would appear on some kind of a registry. If you start adding in all crimes of all people for all past and present there would be few that would escape the registry. Keep it up politicians. Add more and more laws. Eventually it will hit critical mass. There will be more voters on the registries than off. Your re-elections will be decided by the “criminals”.

    Currently there is close to 900,000 people listed on sex offender registries. With family and friends those numbers swell to more than 3,000,000 people directly affected. Remind me again how close the 2016 presidential election was? A revolution is coming and YOU Mr/Mrs Politician are in the cross hairs of the voting public.

    • Add cow tipping

      When Kansans add cow tipping to be a registerable offence, then they will have officially gone off their front porch rockers.

  4. TS

    Good write-up.

    There’s that retired police chief again stumping on behalf of law enforcement officials everywhere for job security by opposing this bill. He can’t say for safety because there are no statistics to back it up.

    There’s the story again of don’t know where to buy drugs in the neighborhood so you look up the people online via a registry like a yellow pages of dealers. That’s funny.

  5. Mike

    What i want to know is if a person is standing across from a bank looking at it even if he is convicted of bank robbery and did his time and parole and a cop stops where he is that the cop cannot arrest him that he might rob the bank so how come a person commits a sex crime does his time and completes parole or probation he has to register and they say it’s a civil commitment but i dont know of any civil commitment that you dont do that put out a warrant for your arrest and you get a class E felony and there trying to feed us this garbage and say it’s not a punishment ? What? How is that not punishment!

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