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Laws Protecting Against Sexual Offenders The Trilogy of Federal Sex Offender Laws: 1. Jacob Wetterling Registration Act a. Passed in 1994, the Jacob Wetterling Act was the first law that instituted any sort of state sex offender registry. This law, originally designed to protect children, requires any individual who is convicted of a criminal offense against a minor or who is convicted of a sexually violent offense to register their current address. In addition any individual that is deemed a "sexual predator" is required to register their address. 2. Megan’s Law a. This act amended the community notification provisions of the Wetterling Act, resulting in mandatory community notification regarding the private and personal information on convicted sex offenders. 3. Pam Lychner Act a. The third law in the federal trilogy is the Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996. It provides a national database at the FBI to track the whereabouts and movements of convicted sex offenders. It also requires the FBI to handle sex offender registration in states which lack a minimally sufficient sex offender registration program. Finally, it amends the Wetterling Act to prescribe more stringent registration requirements (i.e. Wetterling required some offenders to register for 10 years; Lychner requires them to register for life) A Sampling of Sex Offender Laws at the State Level 1. Washington State’s 1990 Community Protection Act (1990, WA) a. This was America’s first law authorizing public notification when dangerous sex offenders are released into the community. 2. Two-Strike Law for Sexual Offenders (1996, WA) a. Resting on the idea that one can be falsely accused and possibly even falsely convicted of such crimes once, but not twice, Washington enacted a mandatory life in prison sentence after a second sexual offense conviction. 3. Jimmy Ryce Act (1998, FL) a. This law providing for the involuntary civil commitment of certain violent sexual predators, rather than releasing them into the community following their incarceration. 4. Chemical Castration Law (1997, FL) a. This statute mandates court-ordered weekly injections of a sex-drive-reducing hormone to qualified repeat sex offenders upon release from prison. It may also be administered to first-time sex offenders. b. Thus, in 1984 a Michigan judge ordered a convicted sex offender to submit to medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) injections as a probationary condition. In 1996, California became the first state to enact legislation providing for chemical castration of certain sex offenders. Florida’s Legislature enacted its chemical castration statute approximately six months after the California bill was signed into law. c. The administration of MPA is, however, contingent upon a determination by a court-appointed medical expert that the defendant is an appropriate candidate for the weekly drug injections. The defendant does, however, have a choice: he may choose surgical castration in lieu of chemical castration. 5. The Volunteers for Children Act (1998) a. This federal act encourages the states to pass legislation that will mandate criminal history background checks for individuals who have unsupervised access to children as part of their employment or volunteer activities. Most states have failed to comply. 6. Joan’s Law (2004, NJ) a. A successful effort to reform New Jersey’s prison sentencing policy with “Joan’s Law,” which eliminates the possibility of parole for anyone 18 years-of-age or older convicted of intentionally murdering a child younger than 14 in the course of committing a sex crime. 7. Jessica Lunsford Act (goes into effect on December 1, 2005, FL) a. Sexual predators and offenders must report in person twice a year to the sheriff’s office in the county in which he or she resides. Offenders must also provide address verification letters, valid vehicle, and employment information. The law also makes it 3rd degree felony for anyone attempting to hide sexual offenders or predators from law enforcement officials. New Developments 1. Operation Predator a. Operation Predator is a new initiative developed by the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to protect children world-wide. This comprehensive DHS program will identify child predators and remove them from the United States (if subject to deportation). Operation Predator will also work to identify children depicted in child pornography to help rescue them, and to assist in prosecuting the people responsible for making and distributing the pornographic material. 2. Truth in Sentencing a. Since 1960 and 1993, violent crime in our country increased by 500%. b. Eight out of ten Americans will be victims of violent crime in their lifetimes. c. This 7% had five or more arrests by the age of 18, but for every arrest made, got away with about a dozen crimes. 75,000 new, young, persistent criminal predators are added to our population every year. d. In 1990, the typical murderer was sentenced to a prison term of 20 years and 3 months, but only spent approximately 8 years and 9 months (43% of imposed sentenced). In 1998, the typical murderer was sentenced to a prison term of 21 years and 9 months, but only spent approximately 11 years and 4 months or (52% of imposed sentence). e. Of inmates incarcerated in state prisons in 1986, 95% of all state inmates were either violent or repeat offenders. f. The one change that would have the greatest impact is the passage by states of truth-in-sentencing laws, which require convicted violent criminals to serve at least 85% of their sentences.
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