SIOUX FALLS, SD -
The recent arrest of a 41-year-old Colton man for indecent exposure has raised questions about South Dakota's Sex Offender Registry.
Brett Rechtenbaugh was arrested for inappropriately touching himself
in a car that was parked near children in a central Sioux Falls neighborhood.
He was on the sex offender registry for two other indecent exposure convictions, but he was taken off the state registry after the legislature made changes in 2010.
In 2010 a tiered South Dakota Sex Offender Registry was created so that offenders who committed less serious crimes, like statutory rape, could eventually have their profile taken off the registry.
One set of offenders who were completely taken off were the ones who were convicted of indecent exposure.
Defense attorney Cheri Scharffenberg says the dozens of offenders who were convicted of indecent exposure didn't fit into the category of serious offenders.
"And I think that's why people look at who's on the sex offender registry is because they want to know do I need to protect someone who can't protect themselves from this person. Those people aren't a threat, and that's why we argued they should not be registerable," Scharffenberg said.
Scharffenberg used to work in the Minnehaha County Public Defender's Office but is now a partner at the Olson, Waltner and Scharffenberg Law Firm in Tea. She says most of the people convicted of indecent exposure were never a risk to the public, but simply caught up in a consensual act in public.
"The incidents of two homeless people having sexual intercourse on the bike path are not individuals who we felt that we needed to track," Scharffenberg said.
Attorney General Marty Jackley argued to keep indecent exposure as part of the registry back in 2010 when the legislature was making changes because he feels those people are still a threat to the public.
"The Attorney General along with the Senate felt a crime of this significance that dealt with the intent to arouse or gratify one's sexual desires should at least be placed initially on the registry," Jackley said.
But, Scharffenberg believes that a majority of those offenders are not a threat to the public and says they water down the registry. The legislature ultimately agreed with her.
"We wanted the sex offender registry to be more effective so that when you pulled it up on your computer screen you could say, 'oh my this person lives right down the block from me. He was convicted of forcible rape of a child. I don't want my children hanging outside while he's hanging outside or unsupervised,’" Scharffenberg said.
But the law does say if someone is convicted of misdemeanor indecent exposure three times then it is considered a felony offense and they are put on the registry for life.
So, if Rechtenbaugh is found guilty of this latest crime he will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of this life.
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