Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Federal sex offender database & registry legislation

Congress yesterday passed legislation establishing a national Internet database designed to let law enforcement officials and the public know where sex offenders live & work. (Article)

The bill, once signed by President Bush, increases criminal penalties for child predators, including a mandatory minimum 25-year sentence for kidnapping or maiming a child, and 30 years for having sex with a minor under the age of 12, or sexually assaulting a child between the ages of 13-17. A new racketeering-type provision is also included, carrying a mandatory 20-year sentence for offenders committing two or more crimes against children. And, sex offenders could face an additional 10-year felony charge for not registering or failing to update the information in their files.

While a majority of the states already have sex offender registries, this new law will require all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa, the Mariana and Virgin Islands, and each of the 561 federally-recognized Indian tribes to erect and maintain sex offender registries within two years of the bill’s enactment; imposes a funding penalty on those jurisdictions that do not, but directs the Attorney General to establish a “Sex Offender Management Assistance” program under which jurisdictions can receive grants to offset the cost of implementing the provisions, along with a “bonus payment if compliance with registration requirements occurs within two years of enactment,” and “bonus payments to states implementing electronic monitoring of sex offenders.”

The bill “authorizes the Attorney General to make grants for assisting in the prosecution of cases cleared through use of funds for DNA backlog elimination,” and “eliminates the statute of limitations for the prosecution of child abduction and felonious sex offenses against children.”

Also included is the abrogation of the “confidential marital communication privilege and the adverse spousal privilege in federal proceedings involving a spouse charged with a crime against a child of either spouse or child under custody or control of either spouse.”

Other portions of the bill include measures relating to missing children/persons and deaths, foster care and adoptions, child welfare, child pornography, gang violence, witness & victim protection, and homeland security & immigration.

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