Nys Senate Passes Child Protection Legislation

Hugh T. Farley

May 23, 2005

The New York State Senate recently passed additional legislation aimed at protecting children, including passage of "Suzanne's Law" that would increase criminal penalties for crimes on school grounds. These bills would supplement several bills passed earlier this year by the Senate to protect children.

Also known as Senate bill S.3226, Suzanne's Law would be similar to the laws which created the Drug Free Zones: individuals who harm their victims on or near school grounds would receive a more severe punishment for doing the crime in what should be a "safe zone."

The Senate also passed S.3509, legislation that relates to the promotion and performance of a sexual performance of a child. Currently, a person who promotes or possesses numerous pieces of child pornography is treated no more harshly than a person promoting or possessing a single image. This bill would establish enhanced penalties for those who actively engage in this illegal business.

Senate bill S.417 would prohibit children under the age of 18 from performing in adult entertainment establishments and S.61A would require the suspension of pay from a tenured teacher if convicted of the possession of child sexual performance materials or the sexual promotion of a child.

The Senate also recently conducted a public hearing to solicit the opinions of law enforcement, educators and school officials, parents and advocates on the legislation we are proposing to strengthen Megan's Law. While it has been extremely beneficial, we can improve Megan's Law to make it more difficult for dangerous sex offenders to escape detection.

Megan's Law requires incarcerated sex offenders, as well as those on probation or parole, to register with a Statewide registry. Convicted sex offenders must register annually for at least 10 years.

One of the issues that we are terribly concerned about is this 10-year mark. It has been documented that sex offenders typically are repeat offenders and we want to prevent them from possibly striking again. The Senate is proposing that sex offenders will have to register for life, not just 10 years. We are also considering proposals for global positioning system (GPS) tracking of sexual predators and mandatory community notification to help ensure parents know when a sex offender is living in their neighborhood.

The current Megan's Law has three procedures for community notification:

* The local law enforcement agency is notified whenever a sex offender moves into the community and that agency may notify schools and other entities with vulnerable populations of the offender's presence if the offender poses a threat to public safety;

* The public can call a toll-free number, (800) 262-3257, to inquire if a person is listed in the registry;

* An annual subdirectory of high-risk offenders is distributed to law enforcement agencies throughout the State for public viewing. The subdirectory includes the exact address and photograph of the sex offender along with the following information, if available: name, physical description, age and distinctive markings. Background information including the sex offender's crime of conviction, method of operation, type of victim targeted, and a description of special conditions imposed on the sex offender is also included.

The Senate also proposes to have all levels of sex offenders be registered on the State Division of Criminal Justice Services' website at www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us/nsor/index.htm. This registry currently enables the public to view photos and addresses of Level 3 offenders. We would like to see all levels of sex offenders (Levels 1, 2 and 3) be put on this registry for the public to view.