Name changes get tougher for sex offenders
By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Peter Boylan
A new law prohibiting sex offenders in the state from legally changing their names without court approval went into effect this month, and the state is working toward improving the screening process for people applying for name changes.
Of the more than 1,000 name-change applications processed by the lieutenant governor's office last year, applicant screeners found three registered sex offenders seeking name changes.
Each was denied, but the applications prompted officials to amend existing sex offender legislation.
The three offenders who sought to change their names admitted in their applications that they are registered sex offenders. But unless an applicant indicates he or she is a convicted felon or sex offender, applicant screeners do not run a criminal history check because of a lack of resources, state officials said.
"In a perfect world, if you had every resource available you would screen every application," said Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona. "The bottom line is you have enforcement. The citizens of Hawai'i must be protected from convicted sex offenders who may be trying to use a different identity to hide from the law, or avoid their obligation under the law."
"We were concerned that the loophole in the law could adversely affect public safety," said state Attorney General Mark Bennett.
There are more than 2,100 registered sex offenders in the state and 642 others who have failed to register since a law was passed in May 2005.
The sex offender registry is maintained by the state Criminal Justice Data Center.
Home addresses, work streets and ZIP codes for each offender are available for view on the registry's Web site. The state's registered sex offenders must keep authorities updated on where they live and work.
Reach Peter Boylan at firstname.lastname@example.org.