New law could force stricter penalties

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Convicted sex offenders could face tougher penalties and regulations if a new Community Notification Act is passed during this special session.

The new act would require sex offenders, in some cases, to wear a tracking device for 10 years after their release.

Gov. Bob Riley included the bill in his agenda for the special session, which began Tuesday, and Attorney Gen. Troy King, who helped draft the bill, said it will be a &uot;dramatic overhaul&uot; of the current Community Notification Act that includes loopholes for sex offenders.

&uot;Our current (law) is in some ways almost worse than nothing, because it makes parents think that their children are protected,&uot; he said.

&uot;It makes them think that convicted sex offenders who do not follow the law will be … punished. I am sorry to say that nothing could be farther from the truth.&uot;

If passed, the bill will require sex offenders, who commit Class A felony sex crimes against children under 12, to wear an electronic monitoring device for 10 years after their release from prison.

The bill would also allow the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center to electronically monitor sex offenders who have received probation, parole or pre-trial release.

The monitoring devices would use global positioning satellite technology, allowing law enforcement to track the movement of sex offenders, and King said convicts will be required to pay a portion of the cost.

On Monday, a monitor was placed on King’s ankle in Columbiana where he said he will wear the device until the bill is passed, which he claimed &uot;will give Alabama one of the strongest Megan’s Laws in the country.&uot;

Other provisions in the bill require sex offenders to register at their place of employment, and verify their residence twice a year without being prompted by local law enforcement.

The time requirement for sex offenders to verify their residence with local law enforcement when they are released would change from 30 to seven days.

King said the bill would also require the Department of Public Safety to place an indicator on state drivers’ licenses that would make is easier for law enforcement to identify sex offenders.

However, the changes to the current law will only effect offenders who are convicted after it goes into affect, he said.

King said the bill has garnered broad bipartisan support in both the state House and the Senate, and one of the bills sponsors Sen. Hinton Mitchem, D-Albertville, said he believes it will pass without opposition.

&uot;It’s not a bill for democrats or republicans. It’s not a bill for black or white,&uot; he said. &uot;It is a bill for all the people.&uot;

While the Community Notification Act has been introduced to the House and Senate in the past, Sen. Steve French, R-Birmingham, a co-sponsor of the bill, said it was not passed because other issues took precedence.

However, now that the bill has been included in the special session, he said legislators will have to make it a priority