Can Convicted Sex Offenders Change Their Names?
Kevin Mitchell Bumgarner was convicted of raping his four-year-old niece in 2004. He's leaving prison much sooner than expected, and with a new name. Many states don't have laws preventing convicted sex offenders from changing their names, but they do have systems in place to track these offenders.
The Bumgarner Case
When Kevin Bumgarner began serving out his prison sentence, he was in his forties. Having been sentenced to spend over half a century behind bars, it was probable that Bumgarner would die in prison. After many appeals and a name change petition, Bumgarner will be walking out of prison with years to live as a free man, with a new identity.
While serving his sentence Kevin Bumgarner appealed his conviction on several grounds, all of which were rejected by the Appellate Court, except one. The Appellate court found merit in Bumgarner's argument against the trial court's imposition of consecutive sentences based on judicial fact-finding. Bumgarner argued that facts pertaining to the imposition of consecutive sentences must be found by a jury, and the Appellate Court agreed. The case was remanded to the trial court for resentencing, resulting in a new potential release date for Bumgarner of August 14, 2023.
In 2020, while imprisoned, Bumgarner petitioned to have his name changed. He now has a new legal name; Mitchell Kevin Golden. To those who believed that, if he were ever released, Bumgarner would never be able to escape his crimes, this is a jarring development. In Oregon, and across the country, people know the name Kevin Bumgarner; it's associated with horrible crimes. People do not, however, know the name Mitchell Golden. The new name seems like a clean slate for Bumgarner, a loophole in the system that should have marked him for life.
Name Change Laws for Sex Offenders
Laws regarding sex offenders changing their names vary significantly across the country. There are laws against sex offenders changing their names in some states including Wisconsin, Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama. In other states, like South Carolina, sex offenders can change their names, but the clerk of the court must report such name changes. In many states though, there are no laws against sex offenders changing their names, and it is the responsibility of the sex offender to report a name change. One such state is Oregon.
Kevin Bumgarner committed his crimes in Oregon. In Oregon there are no laws barring sex offenders from changing their names. Sex offenders are merely required to report a legal name change within 10 days.
Registration Requirements for Sex Offenders
In response to the Florida kidnapping and murder of a young boy named Adam Walsh, legislators created the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). It requires states to employ their own systems for tracking sexual offenders. States have their own statutes defining sex offenses, and their own systems for tracking convicts of sex crimes. These systems generally encompass similar features to protect the public and aid police officers in their efforts to keep track of potentially harmful people. Such features include:
- An online registry of registered sex offenders
- Registration requirements for offenders
Under state registry systems, sex offenders must register their legal names, meaning new names have to be registered. Registries may also require sex offenders to report any aliases that they are using. These systems guard against sex offenders using a change of name as a loophole to disappear into. Under Section 2250 of Title 18 of the United States Code, a person required to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) may be imprisoned for 10 years if they fail to update their information.
While not all states have laws barring sex offenders from obtaining a new name, state sex offender registries exist for the public, and for law enforcement agencies, to track registered offenders. In states where there are no laws against sex offenders changing their names, it's easy for offenders to obtain a new name using services like deed poll, so these registries are vital. They make it possible for potential identifiers of the convicts to verify their identity. The existence of these systems is critical to the protection of the public from the risk of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and other crimes. These registries protect the physical and mental health of the public.
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