To further protect children from sexually violent predators, Senator John J. Flanagan (2nd Senate District) has sponsored a package that would strengthen Megan’s Law. The 25-point plan has passed the Senate and follows the successful agreement on lifetime registration that was signed into law in January.
"As we have seen recently, there remains a constant need to improve Megan’s Law. We must give law enforcement the tools to fight this crime and we must require our courts to follow through," stated Senator Flanagan. "These proposed changes would advance this fight but they are assuredly not the final steps in this battle."
"Recent cases of sexual abuse demonstrate that sexual predators will put themselves in positions of trust in our community to access unsuspecting children and teens. Preventing this victimization requires that we take a comprehensive approach to be one step ahead of predators. Senator Flanagan is committed to this approach and has taken a leadership role by sponsoring legislation that strengthens laws to keep our children safe and by supporting prevention education programs that help to stop the abuse from occurring in the first place," said Parents for Megan’s Law Executive Director Laura Ahearn.
The "Eleventh Anniversary, Twenty-First Century Omnibus Sex Offender Registration Reform Act" would further restrict the ability of sex offenders to repeat their crimes and provide parents with more tools to protect their children. The act would require:
Mandatory Community Notification: Under current law, public notification is at the discretion of law enforcement. This package would require responsible agencies to notify the community when a Level Two and Level Three sex offender moves to an area.
For a level three offender, this notification would be in the form of a press release issued to the general public and to the news media. Additional forms of notification, such as the distribution of flyers or community meetings, could also be utilized if needed.
Electronic Community Notification: This legislation expands the Division of Criminal Justice Services’ website to include information about all sex offenders regardless of level. Additionally, it would allow community members to sign up and receive notification when a convicted sex offender is moving to or relocating to their community.
This system would be designed to protect the identity of the person receiving notification and would allow parents to know who is moving to their neighborhood. This notification would be accomplished by e-mailing any resident who signs up with the web site anytime a convicted sex offender begins to reside in their zip code.
Global Positioning System (GPS) Tracking: This legislation would require all Level Three offenders to wear a GPS monitoring device for the duration of their registration. This tracking, which would require the offender to contribute to the cost of the tracking and would enable the authorities to verify a sex offenders location to deny them access to prohibited locations.
The legislation also specifies that attempts to enter a restricted area while wearing the device, interrupt the transmission of information or alter or destroy the device shall be classified as a class D felony.
Mandatory Address Verification: All registered sex offenders would be required to verify their address twice a year regardless of any change. Currently, this registration is only necessary once a year and only if an offender has changed locations.
The legislation also would require that any individual charged with either a sex offense, incest or sexual performance would only be permitted to enter a plea agreement that includes at least one of these crimes. This change would guarantee that these offenders are recorded as having committed a sexual crime and deny them the ability to avoid sex offender status.
The package would also increase the number of crimes that necessitate Megan’s Law registration, create the crime of entering school grounds and require that a sex offender who has been convicted outside of the state participate in a hearing to determine how long they must register and how much information will be given to the public.
In addition to the 25-point package, Senator Flanagan sponsored legislation that would make the failure of a convicted sex offender to fulfill his registration responsibilities a class D felony. Current law only calls for the crime to be classified as a class A misdemeanor.
"Catching and convicting sex offenders is the first step in protecting our children. We need to make certain that if and when they are returned to society they are not able to violate any more children," concluded Senator Flanagan. "These are crimes of the most heinous nature against those who are our most vulnerable and these are criminals who must be continuously monitored for the safety of our children."
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