March 21, 2006 in City

States get tougher on sex offenders

Richard Roesler Staff writer
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OLYMPIA – Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed on Monday more than a dozen changes toughening sex offender laws, many prompted by lawmakers’ revulsion over child rapist Joseph Duncan’s alleged attacks and assaults on two Idaho children last year.

“This is landmark legislation,” Gregoire said, surrounded by sheriffs, state Attorney General Rob McKenna, victim advocates and others who had pushed for harsher penalties.

The changes, Gregoire said, send “a clear message that there are serious consequences for those who commit such crimes.”

Idaho lawmakers also are considering changes to toughen laws against sex offenses.

The governor’s office is sponsoring SB1312, which increases monitoring of violent sexual predators and significantly lengthens prison sentences for some sex crimes. It was approved unanimously by both the House and Senate and awaits Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s signature.

A bill from the attorney general’s office, SB1301, also awaits Kempthorne’s signature. SB 1301 increases mandatory minimum for violent sexual predators from 15 years to life and increases the minimum sentence for other repeat sex offenders from five years to 15. Other bills would make it more difficult to be removed from the sex offender registry and add radio and television to the media outlets that must be notified of violent sexual predators living in the area.

Some advocates remain unhappy that Washington state lawmakers left intact a provision allowing family members to get treatment and little or no prison time, instead of the new mandatory minimum 25 years in life for many sex crimes.

“A friends-and-family discount is all it is,” said Tracy Oetting. Her Initiative 921 would mandate life in prison for a first offense.

“Pedophiles have children too,” said Oetting, a mother from the rural King County city of Skykomish. “The state doesn’t want to recognize that the crimes committed by family members on innocent children are as important as if the stranger next door committed the act.”

Oetting has named her one-strike measure “Dylan’s Law,” after alleged Duncan victim Dylan Groene.

Republican House floor leader Rep. Doug Ericksen said Monday that GOP lawmakers will keep pushing to shrink exceptions. More than half of sex offenders, he said, are related to their victims.

“We do not feel it is acceptable that live-in boyfriends who rape children should be eligible for shorter sentences,” said Ericksen, R-Bellingham.

Among the measures signed into law by Gregoire Monday:

“HB 3277: With some exceptions, requires a 25 year minimum sentence for numerous sex crimes against children or vulnerable adults.

“SB 6325: Bans many offenders from living within 880 feet of a public or private school.

“SB 6775: Creates a new crime of “criminal trespass against children.” Under the law, adult registered sex offenders could be banned from recreation centers, pools, playgrounds, schools and parks.

“HB 2407: Allowing the state Department of Corrections to require electronic monitoring for some released sex offenders.

“HB 2409: Requiring released offenders to register with authorities in three days, instead of 30. Makes it a felony to violate any registration requirement.

“HB 2576: Allowing victim advocates or other adults to get a “sexual assault protection order” for children or vulnerable adults who can’t do it on their own.

“HB 2654: Banning sex offenders from being certified at sex-offender counselors.

“HB 3252: Requiring people getting treatment in lieu of a long prison sentence to admit their guilt.

“SB 5042: Prime-sponsored by Sen. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley, this extends the statute of limitations for felony sex offenses to one year after the offender is identified through DNA testing, no matter how long after the crime that might be.

“SB 6144: Requires sex offenders moving to Washington to register for all sex offenses, including those committed prior to 1990.

“SB 6172: Making possession of child pornography a sex offense, with registration required. Also makes it a felony to communicate electronically for an immoral purpose with a child, and toughens penalties for voyeurism.

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