News from New York State Office of the Governor
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Governor Paterson Proposes Legislation to Strengthen Sex Offender Laws
ALBANY, NY (04/18/2010)(readMedia)-- Governor David A. Paterson today submitted legislation to expand New York State's sex offender registry statute. This legislation will make it easier to keep track of sex offenders and make it more difficult for offenders to continue avoiding the safeguards which were the intent of the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA).
"The Sex Offender Registration Act greatly improved the ability of law enforcement personnel and all New Yorkers to keep their communities safe by allowing them to monitor and receive information about offenders," Governor Paterson said. "I believe it has been an extremely effective law and has proven to be a valuable tool for law enforcement and concerned New Yorkers alike. Unfortunately, there are several shortcomings in the current law which limit its abilities and this new bill addresses those deficiencies."
The Governor's legislation will:
- Make it a felony for a sex offender to fail to report his or her address as required, even if he or she has not moved from that address.
- Clarify that individuals convicted of sexually motivated felonies must register as sex offenders.
- Ensure that all sex offenders registered in other states who move to New York are required to register here.
- Require that Level 2 sex offenders have a new photograph taken every year, rather than every three years.
- Authorize a local law enforcement agency providing community notification concerning a Level 2 sex offender to provide the exact address. Now, local law enforcement agencies may only notify the public of the approximate address based on zip code of a Level 2 sex offender.
- Require high-risk sex offenders and sexual predators to personally appear before the local law enforcement agency within 10 days of release or relocation, instead of the current 90 days.
- Require judges to find mitigating factors before they can designate teenagers who commit high-level sex offenses as youthful offenders who do not have to register as sex offenders.
Mary B. Kavaney, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, said: "Over time, and partially as a result of some piecemeal amendments, portions of SORA have become inconsistent with the original intent of the legislation. Currently a police agency cannot tell the public the exact address of a Level 2 offender, even though that information is available on a public website. Obviously, that is absurd and unfairly keeps people who do not have access to the Internet from readily obtaining this important information. The Governor's bill would correct those problems, greatly improving law enforcement's ability to protect all New Yorkers"
Sean M. Byrne, Acting Commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), said: "Though it is currently a felony for an offender to fail to verify their address, if they have not moved and simply refuse to obey the law and send in the verification form, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. Consequently, we are constantly asking law enforcement to find people who, more than 75 percent of the time, aren't missing at all. That is a terrible waste of police resources and an indefensible flouting of the law by these sex offenders. Governor Paterson's bill would address that legal absurdity, and implement several other common sense reforms."
Shortcomings in the current legislation include:
- Unclear language leading to confusion as to whether defendants convicted of sexually motivated felonies have to register as sex offenders.
- Sex offenders from other states who move to New York State may not have to register in this State.
- Law enforcement cannot alert the community of the exact address of a Level 2 or moderate risk sex offender.
- Teenagers who commit extremely serious sex offenses can avoid having to register by being adjudicated as youthful offenders.
Information on all offenders, including low risk (Level 1), can be obtained by calling DCJS, toll-free, at 1-800-262-3257.
"This new legislation builds on the old statute, providing additional tools and information for law enforcement personnel and all New Yorkers to ensure our communities remain vigilant and safe," Governor Paterson added.