Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Action Item: SB1374 Excuses EVERY Virginia Department from Ever Advising Our RSO’s of Their Legal Restrictions and Regulations That Change Every Year, Retroactively……and the RSO’s Will Still be Charged With a Felony

A new Bill just posted that everyone needs to send an immediate email or make a phone call against, it affects every current RSO and every future RSO. 

It is patroned by Senator David W. Marsden , SB1374 

Bill Summary:
Provides that a defendant cannot raise as a defense to a charge of failure to register as a sex offender the fact that he did not receive information outlining registration duties and procedures from a state entity. 

Bill Text:
L. Failure of the defendant to receive any instructional or informational publication or guidance document developed or published by a governmental entity for the purpose of assisting persons required to register with registration or other requirements or prohibitions shall not constitute a defense to any criminal charge or  to a violation of any other requirement or prohibition imposed upon a person for whom registration is required, nor shall any civil liability attach to a governmental entity involved in the development or publication of any such document. 

The State has already excused the Virginia State Police for giving out-dated information to our RSO’s  with this current statute http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+9.1-917  

SB1374 would excuse ANY Virginia Department
  • The Commonwealth’s Attorney
  • The Department of Corrections
  • The Office of the Attorney General
  • The Virginia State Police
  • …..etc
from advising a newly convicted Virginian who must register as a Sex Offender that they must even go and register within 3 days (not 3 business days) of the conviction or when they are released from prison or jail. 

I can tell all of you from experience, the Commonwealths’ Attorney, your defense attorney and the Judge don’t advise a defendant what they can or can’t do when they are convicted of a Registrable Offense.  

SB1374 removes ANY responsibility from ANY Virginia Department to answer ANY questions an RSO has about the current State or Federal restrictions or regulations that only apply to them (not every Virginian), that change retroactively every year and that carry a Felony punishment for violating even if the registrable offense was a misdemeanor.

With this bill the VSP Sex Offender Hotline (which is only available Mon-Fri 9am to 4pm) could be completely shut-down, is that the goal here?
What about the re-registration letters that tell a registered Virginian their photo is due (every two years) or that they must come in by a specific date to re-register, with this bill the VSP could stop sending the letters all together and there has NOT been a bill to implement a new system to take over. 

This proposal would allow the VSP not to tell any newly registered Virginian ANY restrictions.  

I’ve personally experienced and shared with all the Virginia Legislators VSP Troopers taking re-registrations who’ve had an attitude or an axe-to-grind and only because I knew the law up-and-down did I know they were out of line or incorrect. With SB1374 the person in authority could purposefully tell an RSO the wrong information setting them up for a failure to register and they won’t be liable! 

Court Rulings:
·         California
Ø       May 2004- Failure to Register, a defendant MUST know of the duty to register for life as a sex offender in order to be convicted of failure to register
·         Florida
Ø      March 2004- Failure to Register, a defendant MUST know of the duty to register as a sex offender in order to be convicted of failure to register
·         Iowa
Ø       2011- Failure to Register, a defendant MUST know of the duty to register as a sex offender in order to be convicted of failure to register 

If Virginia is going to remove ALL responsibility in advising our RSO’s of their legal obligations and still charge them with a failure to register for violating the rule they were never advise of  because there is no requirement of “intent” (mens rea) for the defendant then I believe this bill (if it becomes law) could be challenged in the Virginia Supreme Court.  

SB1374 WILL lead to a significant increase of Failures-to-Register as well as proximity/loitering violations in the Commonwealth for people who had no intent to violate a restriction or regulation.  

This bill is one of the worst ideas I have ever read in my 7 years as a volunteer advocate. 

Does this have something to do with the fiscal deficit the State is in?  

I don’t know but this is NOT the way to make up the difference. 

I ask that everyone Email or call your one Virginia Senator AND Virginia Delegate TODAY and ask them to vote “No” on SB1374!
Mary Devoy