Sex offender; prohibits residing in proximity to children. (HB1004)

Introduced By

Del. Clay Athey (R-Front Royal) with support from co-patrons Del. Dave Albo (R-Springfield), and Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Winchester)

Progress

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

Description

Sex offenses prohibiting residing in proximity to children; penalty.  Prohibits an adult who is convicted of an offense requiring registration where the victim was a minor from residing within 500 feet of the premises of a child day center, or a public, private, parochial, or Christian primary, secondary, or high school. A violation is a Class 6 felony; however, this section does not apply where the facility is established subsequent to the person's conviction. Read the Bill »

Outcome

Bill Has Failed

History

DateAction
01/13/2010Committee
01/13/2010Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/13/10 10102501D
01/13/2010Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/14/2010Impact statement from VCSC (HB1004)
02/16/2010Left in Courts of Justice

Comments

SC writes:

Are you kidding me? What if someone has totally reestablished himself, with and family AND children and has been living in a home for over 10 years, whose "conviction" was OVER 20 years ago and already lives 500 feet from a bus stop?! Are you going to force THEM to move?! You have got to put an end to this ridiculous hysteria. Put your efforts and resources to better use.

Dave writes:

Including school BUS STOPS in this legislation would affect virtually everyone.

Many states are now dropping their residency restrictions because, in addition to being cruel, they DON'T WORK. Numerous studies have now shown that there is no relationship between where a person lives and where offenses are committed.

STOP THIS!

L.D. writes:

How ignorant and blind can one be. Can you not see that you are totally disrupting childrens lives by these ridiculis Bills. Do you not think that some of these sex offenders have not put there lives back together and have children of there own. Why would anyone in there right mind force these children to move because there parents live within 500ft of a bus stop. My children have to go to school everday wandering who saw there father face on the internet today. Who is going to confront me today. These laws are making are children live in fear. These laws are hurting are children not protecting them. For once in your life look at the big picture.

STOP THE MADNESS.

Mary writes:

This bill changes the current statute from only 4 crimes involving the Highest risk “Sex Offenders” to include ANYONE whose crime was against a minor, violent or non-violent, felony or misdemeanor to be included in the 500 ft. Residency restriction no matter how long ago it was.
This bill also ADDS bus stops, community centers, recreation centers, public parks/playgrounds, and public swimming pools where the current statute only includes schools and daycare facilities. Which already makes attending church or temple impossible.
This bill; if passed, would be retroactive which means thousands of RSO's who currently live less than 500 ft. From a day care, school, bus stop, community center, recreation center, public park/playground, and public pool WILL BE FORCED TO MOVE, no matter how long they’ve lived there!
HB1004 will cause widespread homelessness which would result in families being torn apart, unemployment and people who no longer bother to register.
Delegate Athey submitted a similar bill in 2007 that also attempted to increase the distance from 500 to 1000 ft. But thankfully the Senate Committee had the insight to see it as it is. It was a detrimental and dangerous Bill, they had the wisdom to killed it.
Residential Proximity to Schools and Daycare Centers:
Influence on sex offense recidivism, An empirical analysis by Jill Levenson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Human Services at Lynn University, December 23, 2008:
Residential proximityto schools and daycare centers.PDF

Sex Offender Residence Restrictions: Unintended Consequences and Community Reentry, by Jill S. Levenson 2007
Sex Offender Residence Restrictions: Unintended Consequences and Community Reentry.PDF

When Evidence Is Ignored: Residential Restrictions For Sex Offenders
By Richard Tewksbury and Jill Levenson
http://www.aca.org/publications/pdf/Tewksbury.pdf

More books, studies and reports can be found on our web-site, http://www.rsolvirginia.org/reports.html

James Endicott writes:

Minnesota Department of Corrections researchers found that residence restrictions would not be an effective measure in reducing recidivism. Of the 224 offenders, direct contact with a child victim within 1 mile of the offender's home occurred in only 16 instances. Additionally, none of those 16 cases involved contact with the victim near a school, park, or day care."

Virginia has followed the national trend in establishing counterproductive, ineffective residency restrictions that appear to have been based on political expediency, not public safety. HB1004 seeks to enhance current policy that is useless in reducing sex offenses and sex offender recidivism. HB1004 does not enhance public safety.

L.L. writes:

Del. Athey proposed this same bill in 2007, but it expanded the distance to 1,000'. It failed then, despite Del. Athey's faulty statistics, but sex offender legislation always stands a good chance of passing. Senate and House Courts of Justice representatives have all been provided accurate information and academic research regarding residency restrictions and the fact that they do "more harm than good." Yet, they ignore this information year after year.

Barbara writes:

This would make it virtually impossiable for a offenders child to ride a bus from thier home. Would Del.Athey prefer children be made to walk over 500 feet to thier bus stop should a offender live in thier home? Wouldn't this put that child in danger in it's self? Or perhaps the offender would drive them to the bus stop, since it only covers residency. This proposed bill just doesn't make sense to me!!!

TR writes:

Will Virginia go the way of Georgia and Florida where offenders are living under bridges and in camps in the woods because there is no where else they can live (legally)???? Other than those who can afford to live on 100 acres what home in VA is NOT within 500 feet of a bus stop? WHAT HAPPENED TO EX-POST-FACTO LAWS!!!!! HOW IS IT CONSTITUTIONAL TO RETROACTIVELY IMPOSE NEW PUNISHMENTS - AND THESE ARE NEW PUNISHMENTS!!!!! What's next? - Shall we have offenders wear yellow stars or pink triangles on their clothing? Shall we have concentration camps? This is insane... This is nothing more than BS feel good legislation for politicians like Clay Athey who don't stop to ponder the practicality or fairness of what they are proposing. Seig-Heil Clay....

Waldo Jaquith writes:

Other than those who can afford to live on 100 acres what home in VA is NOT within 500 feet of a bus stop?

I was about to call you out on a foolish exaggeration, but you're actually onto something.

Five hundred feet is a long way. I live on a house on the side of a mountain on a very large parcel of land in the middle of nowhere. In the winter I can see a barn about a quarter mile distant and, if I stand outside and look down at a sharp angle, two houses at the main road. But we also live towards the end of the paved road, where our mountain road turns into gravel, so it's at the foot of our driveway where the school bus stops every morning and picks up the few kids who live on the graveled portion. From our house to the end of our driveway, as the crow flies, it's 300 feet.

L.L. writes:

Waldo, the distance is also computed by property lines - not buildings. Even if your house was situated on the backside of a 100 acre parcel, if there was a bus stop within 500' of your property line, you would be subject to this statute, if passed. In other states, people have been subjected to these restrictions even if there was a river or a highway or an industrial park between them and the prohibited area.

I encourage people to consider what has happened in Georgia and Florida where similar bills have been passed. These laws create homelessness, disenfranchisement, and the disappearance of many offenders.

Please remember that these restrictions apply to ALL types of offenders for LIFE. This isn't only about the serial molester, this applies to young people convicted of consensual offenses, juveniles who "played doctor", the man who drunkenly groped the teenage babysitter one time, the couple who got caught having sex in their car, and the guy who was making coffee in the nude in his own home (a recent Virginia case).

IF these laws prevented child sexual assault, then it might be worth it. However, research has consistently shown that residency restrictions have absolutely no impact on sexual offending.

L.L. writes:

Oops - I meant to say these laws are OFTEN measured by property line. There is no indication in this bill (or the current statute) that specifies if the measurement is from buildings or property lines.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

So even owning a hundred—or a thousand, or a million—acres isn't enough. In fact, that makes it worse, because the more land that you have, the bigger your area of exposure to surrounding features like schools, daycares, bus stops, etc. As long as your property has access to a public road (and whose doesn't?), then you may be subject to this. (By "you," of course, I mean anybody who is a convicted sex offender.)

The Florida situation is known as the Julia Tuttle Causeway sex offender colony. The sole place in Miami-Dade County where sex offenders can live, given all of the restrictions on distance from bus stops, churches, schools, parks, etc, is under a highway overpass. One hundred and forty people live there.

This whole arrangement is crazy. I have zero sympathy for sex offenders. None. Frankly, I think most of them are are dangerous nuts, and I've got a tough time envisioning too-harsh penalties for rapists, child molesters, etc. I've been acquainted with a few sex offenders, and to an individual they're creeps who I wouldn't trust any farther than I can throw them. That said, this bill is just dumb, and I hope that it fails. Nearly all of these kinds of bills are dumb. Like the ever-declining acceptable BAC levels (is there no floor?), the ever-increasing distances that sex offenders must live from any human under the age of majority is impractical foolishness.

The trouble is that sex offenders, being convicted felons, cannot vote, and basically nobody has any sympathy for them. The result is that legislators can pile increasingly impractical restrictions on registered sex offenders, knowing that it's not going to cost them any votes, and can only gain them votes.

L.L. writes:

Wow, Waldo, not what I was expecting from you. Zero sympathy? Does this include the kids who are sexting (an even more horrible situation if one happens to be 18)? Does it include the 16 year old who met a girl at a 16+ club had sex and discovered that she was 14 or the college student who had sex with the underage girl he met at the frat party? Does it include the guy who inadvertently downloaded porn with his Limewire? Does it include the parents who took the cute pics of their naked bay to Wal-Mart and were then prosecuted? The mother of the 15 year old who "allowed" her to have sex? The 19 year old with a naked picture of his 17 year old girlfriend? The streaker?

Zero sympathy sounds a lot like those failed "zero tolerance" policies. Thinking that a John Couey is the same as a consensual or even one-time minor offender is like saying that bringing an AK47 to school is the same as having a tiny plastic gun on a key chain. Zero tolerance - Zero sympathy.

I won't rant anymore, Waldo. You're one of the good guys, but I wish you would take the time to learn a little about this issue that impacts more than 16,000 Virginia residents and their families for their entire lives regardless of their offense or risk.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

I know all about the folks in the first paragraph. That's a failure of our sex offender registry. I specifically cited "rapists" and "child molesters." My lack of sympathy has no bearing on the law. The law exists to protect people from emotions. The fact that I think that a rapist should have his balls chopped off doesn't mean that the law should reflect that, or even that I think that the law should reflect that.

You're not going to persuade me to have any sympathy for rapists and sex offenders. You've got to get supporters or opponents for a bill where you can find them.

L.L. writes:

My point is that "sex offender" is a broad label. Not asking for sympathy for rapists, but all those people I cited above are deemed "sex offenders" and "child molesters" - just like the rapist. Garnering support or opposition is made more difficult by the fact that people see them all the same. As I heard one delegate say, "A sex offender is a sex offender is a sex offender." THAT is the problem.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

Right. We're agreeing here.

MB writes:

How long will my son have to pay for his sexual affair at age 18 with his minor girlfriend? And furthermore, what other forms of punishment are legislators going to think up and hit him with. He will have to sell his home and move because the next door neighbors school-aged children are within 500 feet of his home. My son might not be able to vote, but I certainly can . . . and will.

LLM writes:

Many nonpredatory "sexual" crimes fall under this category of requiring reporting. If an 18 year old kisses a 13 year old, he can be on this list. This scenario is not a threat to society nor children. Yet, it lands the person on the registry. "Sexual offender" status should be only for the most serious offenders. If this was true, then this bill would make sense. As the law is written, it doesn't.

Norma McInturff writes:

The first mistake made was to lump all felons into one catagory. Sex Offender. If you look on the internet there are all kinds of porn and it is sometimes downloaded without your permission. That will make everyone who uses a computer a sex offender. Some of the convicted people have paid their dues by serving time and parole time and attending required classes. When do we say enough is enough? So they cannot vote, but they do have family that can. This bill is just another way to appease the heartless people who vote for heartless people. Sorry Mr. Athey, this is not a good way for a "christian" person to be acting. Please drop this bill and try to help the families of these people in some way. They do not need to be punished also.

BB writes:

I was one that was convicted for kissing a thirteen year old while being 18 years old. I didn't have the presence of mind to ask for id. I'm so ashamed, and feel even worse when people claim me to be a monster, and think that I am lurking around playgrounds to find prey. If I talk to any girl under age, I sometimes feel that people are watching me...and that they know I am a sex offender. The only thing I've ever been proud of was the purchase of my first home. And now it appears that this will go as well due to the next door neighbors have children. This hurts so bad. I'm 32 years old, and everyday I wish I could crawl under a rock. Which is prudent, because that is where I'll probably have to live. I wish to the Lord that he would turn back time for me just this once.

TC writes:

Look, while there may be cases like BB's, I don't take pity on anyone who chooses to have sexual contact with a minor. That includes those who are 18 dating those who are 17. It's not that hard to grasp that it's illegal. Seriously, with adulthood comes responsibility and that means suffering the consequences- regardless of what they may be. All of you commenting on how this bill needs to be dropped don't see the other side of this. The victims. Are you going to let them worry that their sex offender or another is nearby? Even if they have "recovered" they still pose an emotional threat to victims. So what if they have "changed"? A fourteen year old doesn't know that. All she knows is a sex offender moved into their neighborhood and maybe for her that drags up her memories she's been in therapy for. I mean, haven't you guys heard the story of Jaycee Dugard? Her kidnapper was a convicted sex offender who supposedly foung God in prison and was let out early. Just look what he did to poor Jaycee. Obviously the bill will be revised, as most bills are, but there needs to be stricter rules to protect our children.

TC writes:

Waldo, you are right on about laws protecting from emotion.

And I meant **found God**

Max Tudor writes:

I do not want to be forced to live separate from my children. Since they are in public school, anywhere we move automatically puts a bus stop in front of my house. Why hasn't anyone filed a lawsuit to challenge the ex post facto issues here. How do they get around this? What is the status of the law in Georgia? Clay Athey and Bob McDonnell are in cahoots on this bill. They are more interested in their reputation than keeping the public safe.

KA writes:

Max, you are right on target, children of RSO's are becoming victims of their government. What person has the right to break up a family and remove a father from the home for a crime they think he might commit. To create a law that strips RSO's of their homes because of the perceived "potential" to offend is crazy. All they have to do is go through the registry here in VA and see how low the recidivism rate is.

In the past the bills like this have had dates and are not retroactive. This is madness and does not create a safer society. This is a slippery slope.

BB writes:

TC I understand your concern. There are some extreme concerns about recidivism. However, I had read it was extremely low. If this law is passed it will be a crime against humanity. A man in michigan froze to death because he was a registered sex offender and was not allowed in a homeless shelter. There is a reason that people go to jail for a specific amount of time, because it is what society has demanded of them for repentance. But you would rather they serve a life sentence? Passing this law would prevent a sex offender from EVER owning a home, because they never know if the next door neighbor is going to have kids or a couple with kids move in. This happened in Florida and people are now living under bridges.
Max you and I both know that this is ex-post facto, however the supreme court has deemed this "civil law", rather than "criminal law" and this is NOT supposed to be a punishment. Multiple offenders murdered, stabbed and turned away from homeless shelters later, people like Mr. Athey can still look themselves in the mirror. Meanwhile, I am constantly watching my back.

L.L. writes:

While I VEHEMENTLY oppose this bill, there are some misconceptions here. Although it is not clear if this bill will be retroactive or not (Athey's office won't respond), once it goes into effect, nobody will have to move if a school or daycare is opened within 500' of their residence. The only question is whether or not offenders will have to move immediately if the law is passed. In the future, once an acceptable residence has been established, it doesn't matter what crops up next to you or if children move in. There is no current or proposed law that prevents you from LIVING beside a child.

Wife of an offender writes:

There needs to be more attention drawn to the fact that the retroactive nature of these laws is a true injustice. If the goal is to not victimize children, then the people representing the state of VA have to understand that they have in fact made victims of children who are directly impacted by these laws. My children and my grandchildren are in that category. Over 22 years ago, my husband made a decision to plea to charges that did not have the same impact then as they do today. Our situation is not an isolated case; there are many others. I truly believe that this injustice can be rectified without the VA State Legislature losing their credibility as an institution dedicated to representing the best interest of it's citizens.
These laws are tearing apart good families. How can they not? Fathers are being restricted from their own children. In many cases, these children were born years after the initial conviction. These children were born to loving husbands and fathers, fathers that are now being told that they can no longer fulfill their God-given roles. These children need to be protected by their state government as well, do they not?
These laws need to be, and CAN be revised to make if right for those whose convictions were prior to the creation of these laws without jeopardizing the safety of our children. It is a viable argument that including those whose convictions were prior to the creation of Megan's Law would be a fair change to these laws and would not go against the requirements the Federal Government has placed on the State's under the Adam Walsh Act.
The very fact that anyone who would be considered to experience such a relief of these restrictions would be those whose conviction dates were well over 20 years ago would exclude anyone who is indeed a "predator". If any of these individuals were a true threat to our society, it would have been brought to light by now, by the very nature of how a true predator behaves.

BB writes:

I apologize. I read the proposed bill wrong. I thought it meant that you could not reside next to a child.."private". However, if you are limited from living near a bus stop and the bus stop is in front of their house, and you live next door....wouldn't that mean you could not reside there? The way I read the law also is that you wouldn't be able to live there if you established residence there prior to them moving in BEFORE your conviction date. Shouldn't that read PRIOR to this bill passing? If my neighbors have lived there all their lives, and I just moved in two years ago with their grandchildren, then I would have to move right?

L.L. writes:

BB - please contact me - SaveOurSonsVA@gmail.com. I can explain better in emails or a phone call.

KA writes:

Everyone who is concerned about these bills needs to be emailing, calling and possibly visiting the committees where these bills are residing. You must speak up now if this directly impacts you. I agree with "Wife of a Sex Offender" that these laws victimize children of people on the registry. They are inadvertently limiting their freedoms.

Also, if 15,000 RSOs become transient overnight, it goes against the registry. If an RSO is staying with friends or family every few nights or is moving around in temporary housing they must submit the paperwork to the State Police. Even if the RSO is doing the paperwork on time by the time the paperwork is processes they have moved on, therefore the purpose of the registry is thwarted.

Also, consider these arguments for the sake of RSO's children: one argument for RSOs with children is the following: "Any offender that moves to a property with their children automatically disqualifies from living in that residence the day they move in because a bus stop is automatically established by their home. An offender should not be forced to live separate from their children because of this law."

One other argument against HB 1004 is the following, "if an RSO with children is forced to move, it limits the freedom of choice for education for those children. The offender would not have the right to stay or move into a better school district if the schools within the area the offender qualifies far are sub-par. Effectively you are taking the freedom of the choice of education from children should the offender be able to find a property to live with their children that is 500 feet away from the bus stop their children would use."

This proposed law undermines the purpose of the registry and will cost offenders and the state tremendous time, money, accuracy for all parties involved.

L.L. writes:

It does not matter if a bus stop is later established by your home! The current statute (and this bill) specifically states that an offender is NOT forced to move if a bus stop, school, poll, etc pops up beside him.

That is the one and only positive thing here.

SC writes:

There are no exceptions written into this bill for those that already reside within 500 feet of a bus stop that already exists. It just states that the state cannot put a bus stop in after the fact and then force them to move.

Wife of an offender writes:

KA - I agree that we need to be making calls. I tried to call Albo's office as he is the Chairman of the Committee and was told that he would not be willing to talk with me because I do not live in his district! Yet, he can pass laws that impact me? I was astounded at that response.

L.L. writes:

SC - I was responding to people saying they would have to move in the future ...

Wife - That is the usual response. Your rep will tell you he's not on that committee and the legislators on the committee will tell you that you're not their constituent. Keep at it!

S.C. writes:

Any one or any group of Law makers that tries to pass a Law that is Unconstitutional should be banned from holding Public Office with out pay and fined,imprisoned. These people are out Public servants for ever one no matter what they have done. They are still human beings and should be treated with dignity.Publicly humiliating people.
The land of the free and home of the brave cannot continue to harass people, diminish their rights and publicly humiliate people who have served their time and paid their debt to society. This is, without a doubt, cruel and unusual punishment.

Sam Ferris writes:

I am a registered sex offender in California, for consentual sex with a 15 and 17 year old in 1984, for which I was sentenced to 6 months in jail, and served 3 after sentence modification. My name is Sam Ferris. See http://cases.justia.com/us-court-of-appeals/F2/891/715/175848/

I understand your concern about the recent Sarah Foxwell matter. Having states communicate with each other as to an offenders risk level is most reasonable.

On the other hand passing laws to where there is no increased penalty for murdering of a witness over the base sex crime leads individuals to logically and reasonably decide to murder the victim/witness once the sex crime is completed. In California you can get multiple life sentences for forcible sex with a child under 14, and some have been sentenced to over 400 years for sex crimes. There is little or no added penalty if you then commit a murder if you consider that life in prison is about the same as the death penalty anyways.

Even bank robbers do not automatically murder all witnesses to their crime.

No one in the history of America has murdered a witness to the crime of jaywalking.

The simple, very sad, fact is that if the penalty for forcible rape of someone under 14 was equal to the penalty for jaywalking Sara Foxwell would be alive today, as would Adam Walsh, Jessica Lunsford and Megan Kanka.

I would suggest some kind of ”safe haven” type law, as is done with females who drop off their newborn child without fear of criminal sanctions, where if sex crime victims are returned within a few days with no harm beyond the sex crime itself that a 5 year maximum sentence could only be imposed, with of course lifetime registration, or something reasonably similar.

On a related issue:

The State of California has found that unlike the popular perception, the recidivism rate for sex offenders is very low compared to the recidivism rate for other crimes, but more importantly, that 9 out of 10 new sex crimes are committed by individuals who are not registered sex offenders:

On page 73 of the

http://www.casomb.org/docs/SOMBReport1.pdf

“The premise for such an approach is not a correct one. In fact, approximately 90% of new convictions for sex offenses involve an individual who had no prior sex offense conviction history. This group of previously unidentified individuals _CATEGORY FOUR_ deserves more attention by those committed to preventing sexual assault.”

Increasing penalties for registered sex offenders is like finding out that 90 percent of dog bites are caused by pit bulls and 10 percent by poodles and then spending unlimited money to gps monitor/castrate/lock up/banish poodles while spending absolutely zero money to keep pit bulls from biting people.

I might suggest additional video surveillance of areas where children under the age of 14 congregate or additional police or volunteer security officers to protect children under the age of 14 where they congregate rather then preventing registered sex offenders from living near such areas (added security also protects children under the age of 14 from other crimes as well, including same age sexual assaults).