registryrightsUncategorizedUS District Court

Aging on the Registry Can Be Hazardous To Your Health and Freedom

One of the hazards of aging is memory lapses.

If we’re fortunate enough to make it into our 50’s,60’s and beyond, we may start noticing that we forget little things, where you left the car keys, where you put your eyeglasses, people’s names. It happens, minor forgetfulness, it’s considered a normal part of aging.

But what if you’re a registrant and you “forget” to register.

As we speak, the fall-out of “forgetfulness” is happening to a 57 yr. old registrant in Kansas. 

Last year “John Doe” simply “forgot” to register. He just plum-out, forgot. Registering, it’s something he’d been doing every year for 25 years. Last April, it just slipped his mind. At 57, it happens.

The unfortunate consequences for that minor “senior moment, brain-fog or brain-fart” as memory lapses are fondly known by many of us over 50, may land “John Doe” behind bars.

This week he will go to court for a FTR, “failure-to-register” charge.  He is facing a 3 year jail/prison sentence for this small lapse of memory.  His public defender had advised him to plead guilty.

Is this right?

It’s no more “right” than another case of an 80 yr old registrant in the early stages of dementia who faced similar charges for his “forgetfulness”.

Thanks to SORNA, jurisdictions require a failure to register statute, a criminal penalty that includes a maximum term of imprisonment of greater than one year for failure to comply with SORNA requirements.

Federal failure to register offenses can be up to 10 years of imprisonment for sex offenders under SORNA who “knowingly” fail to register or update their registration.


To any rationally thinking person, “knowingly” should be the key factor in the court’s decision on cases like these.

Did John Doe or the elderly fellow in the early stages of dementia “knowingly” not register?  Or did they simply “forget”?

And if they simply “forgot” due to nothing more than an age related “brain-fog”, do they deserve what would be tantamount to a “prison sentence for aging?”

We are all aging.

Humans are not infallible.

Aging often brings with it many minor to major inconvienences, the need for reading glasses, dentures, titanium hips and total knee replacements.  It brings hearing loss and loss of dexterity. And it brings memory lapses. Short term, long term memory lapses. This is a normal part of the aging process that simply put, has no cure. It just happens and there’s nothing any of us can do about it.

Are we going to put people who have spent a lifetime registering every year without fail in jail or prison because as they aged, they simply “forgot” to register?  Will the courts really twist these cases and try to make those involved seem like people who “knowingly” failed to register, rather than just older folks who didn’t keep up with their “things to do” list on their calendar? 

I wonder where our humanity has gone?

There used to be a time when if you didn’t show up for work, your employer would call you at home to see if you were OK and if they couldn’t reach you, they called your next of kin.  They cared enough to check on you if you did something totally out of the ordinary like not showing up for work.

Maybe the registry should care more, maybe they should show a little humanity. Maybe if someone who has been registering every year without fail, fails to show up to register when they’re supposed to, maybe the registry should simply make a phone call or text them.

RU OK? U 4got to Register.

Is that asking too much?

Wouldn’t that be more humane and a whole lot easier, not to mention less costly, than court proceedings that throw older registrants back in prison because their memory failed them and they “forgot” to register?

Or, maybe the real problem is that when one fails to register, the almighty registration fee doesn’t get paid and the state can’t exact it’s “blood-money” from the registrant.

Maybe that’s what this really boils down to, money.

It’s sure not about the state’s concern for aging registrants.

And like it or not, the registrant population is rapidly aging.

Where does it end?





5 thoughts on “Aging on the Registry Can Be Hazardous To Your Health and Freedom

  • Judy Schultz

    My husband has been on the registry for 34 years, half his life. He was accused of sexually molesting my 11 year old daughter. He has been a model citizen, not even a traffic ticket. He and my daughter, now 44 years of age, have a great relationship today. My husband is an over the road truck driver. He’s tired of playing their games. He quit a job a couple of days ago and took another one. He called and told them. They said, “oh we can get you on charges for that”. They have to know what cars we have, camping trailer, anything we have. He wants to petition the court but doesn’t know how to go about it, if we need a lawyer, etc

    • Judy-
      Perhaps you can check with your local “legal aide” to find out if you need a lawyer to petition the court, or maybe get a consultation with an attorney to find out if your husband’s registry status allows for removal from the registry. There’s also info on law internet sites as to how to petition courts.
      They don’t make any of this easy do they?
      Hope you find the info you need.

  • George T Lyons

    Once your debt to society has been paid. it’s been paid. Recidivism rates are very skewed and the simple fact is there is absolutely no precaution that can be taken to prevent any crime. Unless someone can see the future?

    Hamstringing citizens with unconstitutional residency restrictions and an essential prison sentence hanging over their heads for life can only foster more dissent in the community.

    I consider myself blessed. I was able to find employment and housing over the last 8 years of being on the registry. But the discrimination and judgment is very real and very detrimental. Living in low income areas and working minimum wage jobs with hardly any opportunity for advance is disheartening at best.

    I pray this movement takes hold because there is a compromise to be reached and maybe we won’t be narrow minded on either side and start looking into the criminal justice system as a whole.

    This will be a hard won fight and I’ll end by saying this. I believe when a law is passed in the wake of an emotionally charged moment those laws will have victims of their own. Even more so when those laws generate revenue.

  • Dennis-
    We all hope that your situation works out well for you and your family.
    The one thing all registrants have to remember, you are more than a label.
    Live above and beyond the label. Live your life to the fullest. Don’t let yourself become a leper in society. Get out there an live!

  • Dennis Shaffer

    Thank you for writing this as it is about my life as well. I was 57 last year when I forgot to register in April after registering since 1993 and never missing registering. My PTSD makes me very forgetful because of my age and because the drug helps me forget being accused of something I didn’t do and spending four years in prison for a sex offense that never happened. No one called me. They knew where I lived as I have lived here for 18 years. I’m not sure, with my mental condition, that I will be able to handle 3 years in prison that I face. I just want to move on with my life and be a the happy productive person who does many things for my community. Instead I’ve been reduced to a leper in society. At one time I was the highest elected official in Clark County Missouri as the Clark County coroner. I was very political and helped make a lot of changes which were positive in our community. Now I can’t even get a senator or representative or commissioner to even accept my phone call or reply to letters. I’ve written to them. I thank God for my mom and dad and my fiance. They are all that I have left. I miss my children every day. It’s like they died and I didn’t get to go to the funerals. I’m a dad and I will always be a dad. Please pray for me as I pray for all of us going through this. It’s not only the the fact that sex offenders have to register; it’s their families too. Having to go through the struggles of being rejected by employers or by landlords or by neighbors. Yes I am the same age as the 57 year old in Kansas and I live in Kansas as well. I sure didn’t choose to miss my registration date. When they arrested me it totally blew my mind because I really thought that I had registered already. I’ve been compliant since 1993 please help us to change laws in Kansas and across the United States. Thank you for sharing. Dennis Shaffer age 57 in Olathe Kansas


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