The New York State Senate yesterday passed legislation (S.6019, sponsored by Senator Dean Skelos) that would require 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 has 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.
"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 Marty Golden. "Parents have the right to know if a dangerous sex offender is living in their neighborhood. We can not abandon our children and their futures, their safety and their well-being. This is common sense public safety legislation that must be made law."
Senator Golden and his colleagues in the Senate were joined at a capitol 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 of the 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, was scheduled to attend, but could not make it due a family emergency.
In a statement, Lunsford 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 passed by the State Senate today 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.
The bill was sent to the Assembly.
The 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 that would provide for the civil commitment of sexually violent predators after they've completed their prison sentence in order to protect the public from criminals likely to commit repeated acts of sexual violence. Senator Golden is supportive of this legislation as well.