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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Action Alert: Virginia SB384 Patroned by Senator Bryce Reeves, Would Effectively Ban Registered Sex Offenders from Public Libraries Without Specifically Stating It

 
This is a follow-up to yesterdays post on SB384 . 

The substitute that was offered up and accepted by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee yesterday has now been posted on-line. 

Original Proposal:
D. Every adult who is convicted of an offense prohibiting proximity to children, when the offense occurred on or after July 1, 2014, shall as part of his sentence be forever prohibited from knowingly and intentionally having any contact whatsoever with children that are not in his custody on the premises of any place that he knows or has reason to know is a public library.

E. A violation of this section is punishable as a Class 6 felony.

January 27, 2014 Substitute:
D. Every adult who is convicted of an offense prohibiting proximity to children, when the offense occurred on or after July 1, 2014, shall as part of his sentence be forever prohibited from knowingly and intentionally approaching within six feet of any children that are not in his custody on the premises of any place that he knows or has reason to know is a public library.

E. A violation of this section is punishable as a Class 6 felony.

The substitute is much, much worse than the original proposal was. 

Yes, they removed the word “whatsoever” but they also removed the word “contact” and added a 6 foot “buffer zone”  As I mentioned in my earlier post adding the word “physical” in front of the word “contact” would have been a better solution but still not a great one. 

Imagine a local library if you would. The rows/aisles of books are very close together, many rows are dead ends. The rows of tables are also very close together, when you push your chair back from a table to get up it actually touches the chair behind you. 

With the proposed substitute for SB384 a Registered Sex Offender (RSO) who walks down a long row of books comes upon a minor already in the row must now evacuate immediately but when they turn around what if there is a second minor who has just entered the row blocking the only route out. Has the Registered Sex Offender done anything wrong or illegal? No! 

But to avoid prosecution the Sex Offender must keep a 6 foot distance between both minors who now surround him and he can not evacuate the row because then he’d be approaching the minor blocking the exit and leave less than a 6 foot distance..  

If this bill becomes law Virginia Code has created a situation where a citizen who has no criminal intent has just committed a felony despite all attempts to prevent that felony which does NOT apply to ANYONE else. 

With the new substitute being far worse than the original proposal that needed attention, I have now come to the conclusion that the real intention of this bill is to in fact ban Registered Sex Offenders from Virginia libraries.

But that is unconstitutional (January 2012 New Mexico)! So how can the Commonwealth make it illegal for a Registered Sex Offender to be in a library BUT not actually state the obvious? They create a policy making it impossible to be in a library without violating a 6 foot radius and after a few RSO’s are prosecuted and word gets out, all RSO’s will just avoid going to a public library out of fear of prosecution. 

I know it sounds cynical or perhaps paranoid to some but I do believe this is the true intention of SB384. Especially with the knowledge of why this bill was submitted (see yesterdays post) for public masturbation, public urination and to stop lewd propositioning of minors. If these are in fact the problems, then let’s deal with these 3 separate statutes instead of creating a brand new proposal that is impossible to abide by so everyone it applies toward will just give up and avoid going to a library all together. 

In its original version and in its newest substitute SB384 intentionally creates an inhospitable environment for Registered Sex Offenders under the threat of a Felony that applies to no other Virginian.  

If present in a Library the RSO could and most likely would be placed in a situation where he or she has committed a felony without choice. This is NOT an administrative proposal, it is not a protective measure for Virginia’s children, it is 100% punitive against RSO’s. This is essentially banishment of Registered Sex Offenders from public libraries and if this bill passes this year it will lead to additional locations being added in future years. 

Schools, daycares and playgrounds are place that only children utilize and so they are protected "zones". 

By expanding such “zones” into public areas that adults utilize as much if not more than children and that are supported by their taxes is going too far! 

Libraries are where citizens can read and learn of their rights within our Commonwealth and about the Constitution, it should not be a place that we now ban them from entering under threat of a felony. 

I try very hard to avoid using phrases like “slippery slope” but this bill fits perfectly 

The original bill was full of possible unintended consequences but yesterday’s extemporaneous substitute creates even more “what-ifs” and “traps” for only the “undesirables” of our community. I believe this is not accidental or unforeseen but is intentional and is the opening salvo towards banishment from any and all public spaces. This clearly violates the rights of those affected and cannot stand. The text of the bill avoiding actually using the term banish does not make this Bill or where it will eventually go any less of an attack on the Constitution which our elected officials have pledged to uphold. 

Please Email or call  your Virginia Delegate and Senator today and tell them to vote “NO” on SB384.  

Mary Devoy