Nebraska Story #6: Eli

He is arrested because he trusted what a sheriff’s deputy told him.

  • Not even law enforcement can keep byzantine registration law straight.
  • Nebraska registry law criminalizes the fact that one is challenged.
  • Legislature should dismantle complicated unworkable system.

This is a series of Nebraska stories about life on the registry. All names have been changed, even when the registrant said we could use his or her name. But the laws that cause so much grief are very real.

Eli worked hard to support his family, even after a sex offense landed him on the registry. A conviction on an unrelated offense sent him to prison but when he was released in July, he went directly to the sheriff’s office to report that he was back in the community.

When he left, the deputy cheerfully said, “See you in six months!” The deputy was mistaken and Eli, intellectually disabled, didn’t catch the mistake. He was required to report again the very next month because Nebraska law requires him to report twice annually — in August, his birthday month, and six months after that, in February. When Eli reported to the sheriff’s office six months after his July report, as the deputy had told him, he was arrested for not reporting in August.

The registry makes no accommodation for people who will have difficulty – through no fault of their own – following the byzantine laws that no one else has to follow. Only registrants are required to tell the sheriff’s office in person that they bought or sold a car. Only registrants are required to tell the sheriff’s office in person they are moving to a new address. Only registrants are required to tell the sheriff’s office in person when they have a change in employment. When registrants are intellectually disabled or old and forgetful, Nebraska law shows them no grace if they were to forget to report to the sheriff.

The Nebraska Legislature built this complicated set of laws and the Nebraska Legislature can dismantle it.

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