Senate To Act On Sex Offender Legislation

James L. Seward

January 10, 2006

The New York State Senate has approved legislation sponsored by State Senator James L. Sewardand members of the senate majority conference(S.6019) requiring the lifetime registration of sex offenders and prevent sexual predators from coming off the state sex offender registry later this month.

"Megan’s Law was truly one of the ground breaking criminal justice measures in the history of New York State, but as we approach the tenth anniversary knowing that hundreds of convicted sex offenders are about to drop from the registry, it is clear that we must take immediate action to prevent that from happening and ensure our communities are kept safe," said Senator Bruno. "We cannot allow these dangerous offenders to blend back into society simply because ten years have passed. This legislation will keep our neighborhoods better informed and protected from the predators who prey on the most vulnerable members of our communities -- our children."

Currently, most sex offenders are only required to register for ten years. On January 21, 2006, the 10th anniversary of the effective date of New York State’s sex offender registry, 168 sex offenders will be dropped from the registry because they have met the 10-year mandate to keep police posted of their whereabouts. Hundreds more will drop off the sex offender registry each month thereafter, totaling over 3,500 offenders by the end of 2006.

"As the author of Megan’s Law, releasing 168 dangerous sex offenders into the shadows of society is no way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the sex offender registry’s creation," said Senator Skelos. "Parents have the right to know if a dangerous sex offender is living in their neighborhood. With only four legislative days remaining before January 21st, the senate and assembly must reconcile their differences and act!"

The senators were joined at a news conference by Laura Ahearn, executive director of "Parents For Megan’s Law," a group of concerned citizens advocating for tougher sex offender laws.

"Legislative action must be taken immediately to prevent thousands of convicted sex offenders from vanishing off fromthe registry. Without immediate legislative intervention, sexual predators will be allowed to go about completely unnoticed in our communities. They could be coaching your child, selling them ice cream or working in a toy store and parents or employers would never know," said Laura A. Ahearn.

Mark Lunsford, whose 9-year old daughter Jessica was murdered by a convicted sex offender in Florida last year, released a statement that said: "I would like to thank the New York State Senate for their commitment to making the Megan’s Law registry permanent and for moving forward with increased penalties on sex offenders. It is important that the state assembly act upon these bills and not wait for federal legislation. While I am committed to enacting a federal Jessica’s Law in Washington, there are differences between the two bills in the House of Representatives and United States Senate that have yet to be resolved. New York should not wait for the federal government to settle their differences and I will be back to Albany to lobby for these changes," Lunsford concluded.

The bill approvedby the state senate would mandate lifetime registration for all levels of sex offenders. The bill does include a provision that would allow certain level one offenders to petition for a relief of duty to register after a minimum of twenty years.

This legislation is the first step in a series of bills the senate will act on this month to toughen New York’s sex offender laws. Next week, the senate plans to act on legislation (S.3273) that would provide for the civil commitment of sexually violent predators after they’ve completed their prison sentences in order to protect the public from criminals likely to commit repeated acts of sexual violence.

"The immediate issue that has to be resolved is preventing known sex offenders from coming off the registry," Senator Bruno said. "But the larger issues that we must act on include stronger penalties for sex offenders, better community notification when an offender moves into your neighborhood, using GPS tracking to better monitor offenders’ movements. The senate has a very strong record of passing legislation to toughen sex offenders laws and protect the public and we will build on that record. Hopefully, the assembly will also pass these common sense measures."

The following week, the senate plans to act on legislation that would:
> Prohibit sex offenders from being employed in a job that involves substantial contact with children (S.204, Senator Maziarz);
> Require sex offenders to verify their address annually on the sex offender registry (S.481, Senator Skelos);
> Increase the penalties for failing to register as a sex offender (S.483, Senator Skelos);
> Make information about all registered sex offenders available online and allow visitors to the site to register to receive e-mail notification when a sex offender moves into a resident’s zip code (S.496-A, Senator Skelos);
> Make failure to appear at the determination hearing a violation (S.1169, Senator Skelos);
> Establish a uniform mandatory dissemination practice among law enforcement agencies (S.1323-B, Senator Nozzolio);
> Restrict level three sex offenders from residing within one-quarter mile of any school or licensed day care facility (S.4025, Senator Alesi);
> Require level three sex offenders to be monitored by GPS devices (S.4656-B, Senator Bonacic);
> Enact the "tenth anniversary, twenty-first century omnibus sex offender registration reform act," which would strengthen Megan’s Law in 25 ways (S.4793-B, Senator Skelos); and
> Require sex offenders to verify their registry information twice a year (S.5404, Senator Skelos).