Monday, February 17, 2014

Update: HB523- Mandating Registration of Juveniles as a Public Sex Offender for a Minimum of 10 Years Was “Passed by Indefinitely for 2014”, Which Means it is Dead!

Past posts on HB523:
I attended the Senate Courts of Justice meeting this morning. 

I gave an opposition statement against HB523 as did 4 other people. No one spoke in support of the bill. 

The bill was Passed by Indefinitely for 2014 with a vote of 9 to 6. 

YEAS--Marsh, McEachin, Norment, Howell, Lucas, Edwards, Puller, Petersen, Wexton--9.
NAYS--Saslaw, Obenshain, McDougle, Stuart, Vogel, Stanley--6

Is your Senator on this Committee? If so, you should be aware of how they voted above.  

If you approve of their vote, let them know. If you disapprove of their vote, let them know. 

This means HB523-Mandating Registration of Juveniles as a Public Sex Offender for a Minimum of 10 Years, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell has stopped moving through the 2014 session. It is dead for 2014! 

It could be revived as-is or in a new form for the 2015 Virginia General Assembly session but for 2014 we no longer need to be concerned with it.
This was not the first time a mandate for juvenile registration has been proposed and it won’t be the last time. I did offer two suggestions in my statement today as a back-up plan to do as little damage to the juveniles as possible if they felt the need to pass something today. Now that my two suggestions are “out there” there is always a chance one or both may be proposed next year. If such a bill does get submitted I will oppose it unless both suggestions are included. 

Thank you everyone who telephoned and emailed your Senator and the members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee asking them to oppose HB523 your voices were heard! 

Mary Devoy 

My Statement: 

Committee Members, 

The Federal Adam Walsh Act and retaining 10% of our Byrne Grant has been raised as justification for this bill. 

In 2009 and 2011 the Virginia Crime Commission studied the Virginia Registry and Federal Adam Walsh Act/SORNA compliance. In order to retain 10% of the Grant that’s at risk a great number of new measures were still needed at a net loss of millions to the State, since then no new measures have been passed. 

So, this proposal is NOT the last step to Federal compliance and it should NOT be rushed through a 60 day session alongside 2,500 other bills. The implementation of this proposal has far reaching and lifelong consequences not only to the person listed but to their parents, their guardians and their siblings. 

Last weeks court ruling to overturn the conviction of Edgar Coker Jr., a juvenile falsely accused of rape 7 years ago has enlightened many people to the realities and suffering of what a public posting on the Virginia Registry really means. 

Two years ago this body considered 2 similar bills. One, the Senate version, was for a private registry; the other House version was a public registry. Rightly, this body felt very strongly that the juveniles should NOT be mandated to a public list of shame but instead a private list. 

My first preference for this bill……is that you table it so that our judges can continue to determine if registration is necessary based on the merits of each individual case.  

If you feel the need to take immediate action today then please consider two amendments so that these kids are NOT being discarded without any chance of a successful future. 

In Maryland (a state that IS certified as AWA compliant) the juveniles are placed on a private registry that only the authorities have access to AND on their 21st birthday they are removed. 

Two years ago this committee fully supported a private registry; Virginia could implement one and in regards to this one issue meet that requirement. I ask that HB523 is amended to do the same.  

Almost every adult in Virginia who has gone through the petition process which costs thousands of dollars after their 15 or 25 years has been denied because NO judge wants to be the one to OK their removal once they’ve been listed. Let’s not fool ourselves, if this mandate becomes law as-is the odds of these juveniles (who would then be 23 to 27 years old) getting a judge to OK their removal is less than winning the Lottery. 

If these young Virginians have NOT reoffended and have faithfully met their obligation to register, I ask that you also amend HB523 allowing for automatic removal on their 21st birthday if they have NO new convictions, no failures to register and no pending charges.  

Again this second request would meet the requirements of the Adam Walsh Act as it is Maryland’s current system. Now if the young person DOES have a failure to register or has past issues with Probation then THEY must wait until the 10 year mark to petition the court for removal. The person they were at 14 years old will NOT be the person they are at 24 years old.  

While these two changes to HB523 are not my favorite I believe they would accomplish what the patron is looking for while not destroying the juvenile’s re-entry and future in the Commonwealth. These changes would allow them to receive the treatment and help that they need to become citizens who contribute to society as opposed to being lepers who are shunned and banished from our communities. 

A public posting of a juvenile runs contrary to the philosophy of the juvenile justice system to rehabilitate, not just to punish. These public postings would remain on the Internet forever even if they were successfully removed from our public Registry.  

We need a system that keeps the public safe but does not stigmatize young people for the rest of their lives.  

These kids will be under supervision and observation due to probation and therapy, mandating isolation and public ostracization will only undermine any hopes of recovery. 

If you must do this today, then please create a private registry and allow for automatic removal on their 21st birthday if they have stayed on the-straight-and-narrow.  

Solving the problem instead of throwing them away, is best not only for the individual, but for the benefit of the Commonwealth. 

Thank you