Friday, June 23, 2006

House Cracks Down On Sex Offenders

House members unanimously approved legislation (HB 1896) on Tuesday that would prohibit sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, or public swimming pool. The bill would require sex offenders to register in person with the sheriff of the county, give annual verification of address, and notification of changes in address. Further, if a convicted sex offender works or attends school in another county, they must also register with that second county’s sheriff.

The bill adds to the list of offenses that require sex offender registration by including statutory rape of a person who is 13, 14, or 15 years old by a person who is at least six years older than the victim. Other provisions make it a felony for someone to knowingly harbor an unregistered sexual offender, and authorize sheriff’s deputies to obtain updated photographs when they believe an offender’s appearance has changed. The state Department of Motor Vehicles would conduct background checks on new residents before issuing a driver’s license.

The legislation, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, is one of several sex offender enforcement bills recommended by the House Select Committee on Sex Offender Registration Laws which met prior to the start of the short session. The House budget included $1.5 million to upgrade the state’s sex offender registry, implement a global positioning system to monitor the most serious convicted sex offenders, and to establish an email notification program so citizens can be notified when a registered sex offender moves into their neighborhood.

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