Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Federal online sex offender registry bills

A bill introduced in the House of Representatives yesterday would amend & supplement the Sex Offender Registration & Notification Act by encouraging and providing the means for social-networking websites such as MySpace, Classmates, and Friendster to compare their lists of registered participants with the federal government’s sex offender database. (Article)

The present law requires provision of a convicted sex offender’s name, social security number, home & work addresses, license plate number, and a DNA sample and fingerprint & palm prints. Passage of this bill would add e-mail addresses and any regularly-used online identifiers, such as names used in chat rooms and for “instant messages,” and carries provisions for fines and up to 10 years in prison for non-compliance. It also makes it illegal for anyone to misrepresent his age in one of those social chat room settings for the purpose of attempting to engage in sexual activity with a minor.

The e-mail and other Internet information would not be included in generally disclosed public information, but would be available to social networking sites thru confidential applications to the Attorney General’s Office.

Critics in essence are saying, though well-intended, much of the effort would be unenforceable.

Another related effort introduced earlier this month would provide for the establishment of a “national sex offender risk classification task force” to create guidelines for a risk-based sex offender classification system. That bill is also in the House Judiciary Committee. (See Here)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ohio-Kentucky death penalty update

Ohio is one of the 38 states in this country with the death penalty on its books, along with Kentucky, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. Among those 38, Illinois is in the seventh year of a death penalty moratorium, ordered by then-Gov. George Ryan; the State of New York is under a court-ordered moratorium since its high court declared its death penalty unconstitutional in 2004; and eight other states, Ohio included, have stayed further executions temporarily.

Newly-elected Ohio Governor Ted Strickland indicated cautionary feelings soon after taking office Jan. 8st., saying that he had “some concerns” about the death penalty’s effect on both “society as a whole” and “those actually charged with carrying out the execution.” His staying the executions of Kenneth Bios, James Filiaggi, and Christopher Newton reflects those concerns, although Ohio isn’t necessarily moving toward a moratorium of its own according to the Enquirer this past weekend. That isn’t to say, though, that the area isn’t something to be being watched in the growing national death penalty debate.

Last summer Ohio made modifications to the manner in which it administered lethal injections after the problematic execution of Joseph Clark in May. (Article)

A case filed in Ohio Southern District Court in behalf of Richard Cooey in December 2004, joined over the past two years by eight additional inmates, “challenges Ohio’s protocol for executing capital thru lethal injection.” Kenneth Bios, one of the inmates whose execution was stayed by Gov. Strickland, is one of the now intervening parties to that action. The case is still pending. (See Here)

Meanwhile, in Kentucky’s Eastern Division District Court last week, three inmates filed a suit claiming lethal injection violates federal law because doctors don’t administer the drugs and that under the Controlled Substance and federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Acts only doctors can buy or prescribe sodium thiopental, one of those used in executions. They also state that sodium thiopental is a “schedule III,” controlled substance not approved by the Federal Food & Drug Administration. Their appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court last year was lost. (Note: case loads slow).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cincinnati panhandling registration ordinance in part unconstitutional

Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals last Friday found that portions of Cincinnati Municipal Code regulating panhandling that required homeless & unemployed persons to register with the police department prior to being allowed to solicit money from passersby, were unconstitutional, but only insofaras that they don’t address appeals & judicial review of rejections in an adequate manner.

Cin’ti. Mun. Ord.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Death Penalty legislation/ New Jersey commission report

A special commission created by the New Jersey legislature late in 2005 is recommending that that state abolish its death penalty, according to CNN, New York Times, and Findlaw articles this morning.

The commission, charged with “studying all aspects of the death penalty as currently administered in the State of New Jersey,” released its final report Tuesday, citing that “there is no compelling evidence that (New Jersey’s) death penalty rationally serves a legitimate penological intent;” that, while it is not possible to measure costs with any degree of precision, “the costs of the death penalty are greater than the costs of life in prison without parole;” and that “there is increasing evidence that death penalties are inconsistent with evolving standards of decency.”

As of this posting, there are two bills in Washington which would abolish the death penalty altogether (S 122 and HB 4923)
The “Innocent Life Protection Act of 2005” (HB 379), would require any state having a person sentenced to death who was later found innocent, impose a 10-year moratorium which can’t be terminating without application to the Attorney General; and “The Death Penalty Reform Act of 2006” (HB 5040) would amend the federal criminal code to “modify substantive law & procedures relating to the death penalty,” including the granting the Attorney General regulatory authority over the implementation of the death penalty, and “requiring a court in a death penalty case to assign a second attorney to the defendant when the government files a notice of intent to seek the death penalty.” It would also allow the government to “strike for cause jurors who opposed the death penalty.”

Ohio has a house bill pending in its Judiciary Committee which would have essentially duplicated the New Jersey study above. There has, however, been no action on it since its introduction back in May 2005. (HB 260)

Other material on death penalty news & issues is available from the Death Penalty Information Center, including a summarization of “Changes in Death Penalty Laws Around the U.S.: 2000-2005”

Ohio OVI law refinements

Ohio’s vehicular homicide, manslaughter, assault, and OVI counterparts are being refined with the passage and signing of another new law this week, including mandatory 10-15 year prison terms for aggravated OVI-related vehicular homicide when the offender has three or more prior OVI convictions within the past six years, and life-time license suspensions.

Vehicle immobilization and the impounding of its license plates for offenses of “driving under financial responsibility law suspensions or cancellations” are also included.

(See related information re. Ohio DUI laws and federal funding)

HB 461
(Bill Summary)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ohio child rape law enhancements

With the signing of Am. Sub. Senate Bill 260 today, Ohio’s rape and Sexually Violent Predator Sentencing laws have been further enhanced. Among the changes are:

Persons convicted of raping another under the age of 13 now face an indefinite prison term of ten years to life; an indefinite prison term of 15 years to life or life without parole if the victim is under ten; 25 years to life if the offender purposely compels the victim to submit by force or threat of force; and 25 years to life, or life without parole, if the offender causes serious physical harm to the victim, or if the offender has prior convictions of raping one under the age of 13.

The bill instructs the Attorney General’s Bureau of Identification & Investigations (BCII) to immediately enter specified information in the Sex Offender & Child-victim Offender Internet Database.

It specifies that it is the intent of the Ohio General Assembly that “the offense of child rape prevails over that of sexual battery committed against a person under the age of 13 in circumstances when a person violates the prohibitions of both offenses.”

(Bill summary)