Miss. Supreme Court rules former Columbia officer must register as sex offender

Miss. Supreme Court rules former Columbia officer must register as sex offender
The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled on the case Thursday.

JACKSON, Miss. (WDAM) - The Mississippi Supreme Court has overturned a decision allowing a former Columbia police officer to avoid registering as a sex offender after being convicted of having sex with a woman on probation under the state department of corrections.

Justin Codey Herrington was convicted on Aug. 9, 2016 of having prohibited sexual activity with a Mississippi Department of Corrections probationer.

Herrington was one of four men charged with having consensual sexual activity with a woman under MDOC supervision while they were employed as officers of the Columbia Police Department. He resigned from the department in July 2014.

A Lamar County trial court sentenced Herrington to five years in prison with two years to serve.

The trial court ordered Herrington to register as a sex offender since the conviction is defined as a registrable offense due to the crime of sexual activity between a law enforcement officer and a person under "correctional supervision.”

He later filed a motion to drop the requirement to register as a sex offender, arguing the woman was a probationer and not a prisoner. Herrington argued sexual activity between a law enforcement officer and probationer is not a registrable offense

On Dec. 10, 2018, the trail court granted the motion and removed Herrington’s sex offender registration requirement.

The Mississippi Department of Public Safety appealed the motion on Jan. 7, 2019, claiming the trial court made a mistake by dropping that requirement.

MDPS argued that a probationer is defined as an offender under Mississippi law and reasoned that state law enforces the same penalty for sexual acts with an offender regardless of the offender’s title as an incarcerated offender or under probation.

Another argument from MDPS was that requiring sex offender registration only in cases involving prisoners does not agree with what is stated in the law regarding protecting and notifying the public of a sexual offender.

MDPS claimed the general public and those who similarly situate as the victim have the right to be warned about possible danger through public registration.

In the end, the Mississippi Supreme Court sided with MDPS and found that Herrington’s conviction should result in a requirement to register as a sex offender and reversed the circuit court’s decision to drop the requirement.

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