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Sex Offender Cannot Change Name to ‘Better Off Dead’

— January 23, 2020

Sex offender can’t use religious belief argument to change name.

A Minnesota Court of Appeals will not let Hollis John Larson to get his name to ‘Better Off Dead.’  Larson has been civilly committed for sex crimes.  The appeals court upheld a judge’s findings that Hollis John Larson’s “name change was misleading and confusing,” and there was no violation of his First Amendment rights in denying the action.

Hollis claims that he has a right to change his name under constitution’s freedom of speech and religion clause.  He claims to believe in Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism and Agnosticism and that the only way to escape the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth, according to these religions, is by being dead.  He has also argued in court that changing his name would be the best way to outwardly project his beliefs.

Sex Offender Cannot Change Name to 'Better Off Dead'
Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

However, the appeals court said the district court “did not abuse its discretion when it concluded that a name change to a common expression has the potential to be misleading and confusing,” according to documents.  Hollis disagreed, arguing “he has no intent to defraud or mislead, and his new and old names would be inextricably linked in documents maintained by the state.”  But, the appeals court could not determine whether Hollis was telling the truth when he claimed he would ultimately continue to use both names.  The court also argued, given Larson’s past, public safety would be an issue.  He would be harder to keep track of and could more easily commit future offenses.  The court did not believe Larson’s religious argument was legitimate.

According to the opinion, “Appellate had the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the name-change request is not based upon an intent to defraud or mislead, is made in good faith, will not cause injury to a person, and will not compromise public safety.”  And this was not accomplished.

The court wrote, “Appellant testified, but cannot establish, that he did not intend to defraud or mislead and stated in his motion for a name change that virtually every/any document created by his current captors with the name ‘Better Off Dead’ will also state ‘aka Hollis John Larson.’  Because his new and old names would be inextricably linked, appellant contends that changing his name would not compromise the public’s ability to maintain or access his records.”  However, the county contended that changing the sex offender’s name would “interfere with the state’s ability to maintain his records and retain identification information for use in future investigations or prosecutions.”  It would also “prevent the public from having immediate access to his criminal records.”

The appeals court also rejected the freedom of speech argument, writing further, that “[c]hanging one’s name to a common expression such as ‘Better Off Dead’ has every potential to be misleading, [and] confusing.”  Furthermore, because “‘Better Off Dead’ is an idiom and contains no pronouns, it is an inherently misleading name.”  In the end, allowing Larson’s to change his name would create a larger risk than reward and such a decision would allow a criminal to walk around largely without being monitored.


Sex offender’s quest for ‘Better Off Dead’ name change bites the dust in appeals court

Sex Offender Tries to Change Name to “Better Off Dead”

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