Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry Act; registration requirements. (HB1898)

Introduced By

Del. Vivian Watts (D-Annandale) with support from co-patrons Del. Dave Albo (R-Springfield), and Del. Tim Hugo (R-Centreville)

Progress

Introduced
Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law

Description

Sex offender registry. Adds a number of registration requirements in order to comply with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. Persons required to register must submit to state or local police information relating to immigration status, telephone numbers, professional and occupational licensing, volunteer positions, physical job site locations, change in employment status, temporary lodging and motor vehicles, watercraft and aircraft regularly operated by the person. Under current law nonresident offenders must register in Virginia if they are here for employment exceeding 14 days and if they are here for any other purpose for 30 days or more, this bill reduces both time frames to seven days. Read the Bill »

Outcome

Bill Has Failed

History

DateAction
01/13/2009Committee
01/13/2009Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/14/09 098289824
01/13/2009Referred to Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety
01/15/2009Impact statement from VCSC (HB1898)
01/23/2009Impact statement from DPB (HB1898)
01/27/2009Assigned MPPS sub: #2
01/29/2009Subcommittee recommends reporting
01/30/2009Reported from Militia, Police and Public Safety (22-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/02/2009Read first time
02/03/2009Read second time and engrossed
02/04/2009Read third time and passed House BLOCK VOTE (98-Y 0-N)
02/04/2009VOTE: BLOCK VOTE PASSAGE (98-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/05/2009Constitutional reading dispensed
02/05/2009Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
02/11/2009Assigned Courts sub: Criminal
02/23/2009Passed by in Courts of Justice with letter (11-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/24/2009Subject matter referred to the Crime Commission pursuant to Senate Rule 30 (L)
02/24/2009Subject matter referred to the Crime Commission pursuant to Senate Rule 20 (L)

Comments

L.L. writes:

Not all of these changes are required by AWA. AWA does NOT require information regarding physical job sites or phone numbers the offender "intends" to use.

Remember that compliance with AWA costs Virginia millions every year while we would lose only $400,000-$425,000 by NOT complying.

Bill Twine writes:

My non profit agency provides housing for sex offenders. I would not want my telephone number listed on a sex offender's registry.

There has been abuse in the past by members of the media in search a story. I do not choose to become the subject of anybody's news story....Especially when we are minding our own business and not harming anyone.

Stephen writes:

another waste of my tax dollars by vivian watts

L.L. writes:

I think that Del. Watts generally has her heart in the right place but appears not to have a healthy respect for facts vs opinions. Her bills seem to be trying to accomplish admirable purposes, but I often wish she would educate herself before authoring bills.

I'm thinking THIS one comes from the AG.

Traci writes:

In this age of declining income for the state, do we really need more information required of people that will do little more than sit in a database that will cost more than the state will receive?

Del. Watts may indeed be trying to protect the people of this state, but the studies done just do not support these ideas.

L.L. writes:

The fact that the fiscal impact "cannot be determined" should be a red flag. There WILL be an impact because it will be impossible for many offenders to reregister every time their "physical job site" changes. They will be charged with FTR, and we will pay $25,000 a year to house them.

Dave writes:

This is a complete waste of taxpayer dollars, which should be considered a crime at a time when the Commonwealth is cutting funds to programs like education. Moreover, it contributes nothing to public safety and makes it harder for a sex offender to lead a meaningful life. This subjects the individual to psychological stresses that may actually increase the chances of recidivism. Virginia should heed the example of states like California that have chosen not to follow the national train wreck that is the AWA.

Julie writes:

I agree that education to our legislators is key. I in NO way support abuse of any sort, but our society must realize that the strict laws that are creating MANY people to now be on the sex offense registry are causing mass hysteria unnecessarily. in addition, it is already weeks before any information is updated on the registry even after the SO submits the information. Therefore, how is this helpful? There are offenders who work jobs requiring them to change location on a daily basis (truck drivers, construction, sales). To me, this is simply going to increase the unemployment numbers, put people who are trying to earn a decent living and turn their lives around back in jail, and create an undue additional burden on taxpayers trying to pay for their "stay" at the local DOC...instead of earning a living for themselves AND their families...yes, a LOT of these people DO have families!

VA Men's Accountability Network writes:

The legislation proposed in HB1898 and HB1928 is an attempt to create an extended probation/parole system, ex post facto.

Under the disingenuous (and largely false) guise of compliance with the well-publicized Adam Walsh Act, these bills add burdensome, untenable requirements that fall just shy of implanted GPS devices. Their requirements, in fact, go so far beyond existing probation and parole guidelines, and apply to so many offenders long since released from probation and parole, that the only way to enforce them will be to convert State Police to enhanced probation and parole duty.

State Police, citizens and elected representatives take a hard look at the implications and burdens of this fuzzily-conceived legislation, as the cost, time and effort they will require will in no way result in actual problem-solving.

The offenders and their families who would be most affected by this legislation cannot even begin to process its implications, as the laws in place are already too labyrinthine and ever-shifting for them to sort through.

Good-faith attempts at compliance are met with obscure, bureaucratic parsings of law that don’t translate into the everyday experience of trying to survive in society.

Case in point: John Doe.

John Doe was convicted as a non-violent offender in the late 1990s based on the laws in place at the time of his conviction. Virginia law at the time required he register as a non-violent sex offender, once a year for 10 years. His information would not be posted on the internet. Given the facts of his case, the law outlined a reasonable balance of accountability and public safety, and an end-date to surveillance of his behavior.

Surrounded by a community vested in his accountability, John Doe entered into a plea agreement with the Commonwealth and began the path toward rebuilding his life under the framework that his community, and Virginia law, required.

Two years after his conviction, all the rules changed.

New legislation retroactively reclassified him as a violent sex offender. Overnight, he had to register every 90 days, and he found his personal information posted online. Further, this would now apply for life – no longer the 10-year monitoring that seemed so sensible and appropriate at the time he entered his plea agreement.

Though the facts of his case strongly indicated a situational, non-violent event, this was never considered in the backward-sweep of the legislation. The retroactive law change was considered constitutional because it was characterized as an "administrative" change rather than a punitive one.

Five years later, John Doe looked to another Virginia law for relief. This one required that he submit to an invasive, expensive analysis ordered by the Circuit Court. Depending on the results, he would be removed from the internet registry, thereby allowing him to continue on with the best opportunity for an ordinary life.

At considerable emotional and monetary expense, John Doe submitted to in-depth examinations by a court-appointed panel of three specially-trained psychologists. The panel reviewed the court files, subjected him to a battery of invasive tests, interviewed subjects from the time of the incident and from the eight years that had elapsed. The panel unanimously reported to the Court that John Doe showed zero risk factors for offending in the community. He is not a predator. The Court therefore ordered the offender be removed from the internet system, and he was indeed removed.

Though a pained and financially tapped by the process, John Doe was motivated to seek the relief because of the legislative promise that his information would be removed from the internet system. Though he would still have to register annually for life, he could quietly, redemptively continue on with his life, monitored by authorities but free from crippling stigma.

Months later, Virginia law changed yet again and was retroactively applied.

The Court Order was essentially nullified. John Doe was placed back on the internet registry, still labeled as a violent offender but with a paucity of other contextual information. He had gone through the process for nothing because new legislation was applied retroactively.

HB1898, and the similar HB1928, again change the rules. These bills add probation/parole-like conditions that must be honored years after release from probation or parole. The vagueness of the conditions—and their potential to be used to entrap—is alarming.

If John Doe decides to drop off a donation at a Food Bank, is that considered “volunteer work information” that he should have submitted?

If he reports activities at his church, does the church then become subject to random visits and destructive information-dissemination by State Police, posting in databases, and risky exposure because of his association? These risks are currently a reality for anyone employing a sex offender, regardless of the specific circumstance surrounding the offender.

If he must use a pay phone to report an accident, or a store phone to ensure he has picked up the right kind of moisturizer for his wife, is the sex offender non-compliant for not reporting  “any telephone number the person uses or intends to use”?

If his job is delivering shipments to 25 businesses downtown, must he report each of those businesses as a “physical job site location”? And if that changes day to day, hour to hour, what is his liability for not reporting each change? What is his employer’s liability? What is his method for reporting? (Again, GPS implant?)

For HB1928, what constitutes “any significant change in his appearance”? A haircut? Growing a mustache? Trimming his beard? Tanning at the beach? Who decides?

Reporting his IP address, also proposed by HB1928, not only yields invasive-but-limited tracking of the offender, it also impedes on the privacy of any number of other users on the same network, as the nature of IP address protocol varies depending on the network. A disparate group of individuals may all register the same IP when browsing online. Multiple users on the same computer would show the same IP address.

Retroactive legislation thus far has put businesses at risk if they employ sex offenders, regardless of the specific conditions surrounding the individual. It has placed churches and non-profits at risk for associating with sex offenders, no matter the degree of vetting they have done above and beyond the incomplete, misleading information provided by State Police databases.

At the end of the day, these bills have to be countered with some intuitively simple questions:

What is the problem they are attempting to solve?

What is the scope and impact of the problem? What is the scope / impact of the solution?

Does this bill actually solve the problem?

Is there a redemptive path outlined in this solution?

If there is not a clear problem to be solved; if there is not a direct factual correlation between the problem and proposed solution; and if there is no higher goal of redemption or reintegration into society… then the proposed legislation is meant for resumes and busywork and is not based in measurable reality.

L.L. writes:

Somebody from the VA Men's Accountability Network might want to show up at some hearings ... The GA needs to continue to hear that these laws are expensive, ineffective, and punitive.

Stephen writes:

Another waste of taxes, How many school classes will be cancelled to pay for it. Thanks Vivian.

Stephen writes:

The next time I volunteer for a campaign, I'll be sure to tell everyone of those old lady volunteers I'm on the registry, so they can deside if they'd prefer to stay home rather than stuff envelopes.

L.L. writes:

Anybody with concerns about this and similar bills can contact me at SaveOurSonsVa@gmail.com.