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Monday, February 2, 2015

Action Item for SB1374: It Passed Out of Courts of Justice Committee Today and Now Heads to All 40 Virginia Senators for a Vote on the Senate Floor


 
SB1374 Sex offender registry; failure of defendant to register patroned by Senator Dave Marsden passed out of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee today even after the members heard VERY legitimate concerns and real life examples of how the VSP makes little effort today to advise our RSO's and if SB1374 becomes law they will have no reason to even do the bare minimum. 

I found it very interesting that the Virginia State Police Legislative Liaison in the Senate Committee today did not speak in support of this bill when this bill comes from the VSP even after they have publicly opposed during 5 previous sessions a bill to add to Virginia Code that the VSP must come up with a process to notify our RSO’s of their legal obligations, post the list on-line and update it when new laws are passed. 

A Senator told me at today’s meeting that the VSP told them “they give everybody everything” as in RSO’s receive a full list of restrictions and regulations. If that was actually the case then why didn’t the VSP Representative step up to the podium and tell the Committee that? Because they know that they don’t advise our RSO’s of their legal obligations, that’s why. 
 

I also found it interesting that NBC12 which ran a brief story last night and this mornings anchor told their audience that SB1374 would stop Offenders who are “duping the system” from getting away with it did NOT even attend the hearing. No one is “duping” the system and such a spin whether it came from a member of the Senate, someone at the VSP, the Legal Analyst they quoted or NBC12……………. it is not only disingenuous, but reckless because it creates a fallacy in the hearts and minds of the public that RSO’s are running amuck, they are unregistered and getting off scot-free when charged with failure-to-register and NONE of that is true! 

If a bill is valid, then it can stand on its own merits and “spin” or propaganda is unnecessary. The NBC12 storyline and anchor comments this morning were just that, propaganda. 

SB1374 benefits only one entity, and it’s not our 20,300+ RSO’s who are trying to remain compliant it’s the Virginia State Police who have avoided assisting our Offenders for years and because of my push over the last 7 years to mandate they produce, disperse and update a brochure to our RSO’s they want full amnesty of liability from doing just that! 

Below is my full statement from today’s hearing. 

Also below you will find the email addresses for every Virginia Senator. If you have not yet sent an email asking them to vote “No” on SB1374, I ask that you please do so immediately. This bill needs to be stopped in the Virginia Senate before it reaches the House.
 
Thank you! 

Mary Devoy

 

Mr. Chairman and Committee Members, 

Ignorance of the law has never been an accepted defense…. for any citizen…. or any crime…..in Virginia. 

So the addition of this language JUST for Registered Offenders legal restrictions and regulations which DO in fact change yearly here at the General Assembly is puzzling and I believe…….. irrelevant. 

By adding this language to JUST this statute wouldn’t the Legislature be implying that ignorance of the law in ANY OTHER situation would NOW be an acceptable defense? The only way to avoid taking that stance would be to add this language to ALL the other Statutes. 

Unlike most criminal laws in the Commonwealth……..the ever expanding regulations and restrictions governing our Registered Sex Offenders does NOT require “Intent” (Mens Rea) a necessary element for any other crime. 

Laws which affect those on the Registry….are NOT intuitive…. BUT they are usually retroactive. Citizens expected to follow these laws MUST know of any NEW requirement. Otherwise they face an arbitrary felony, for a crime they had no intention to commit, and which for any other citizen would not be a crime! While I do believe the sponsor’s intent is to ensure this information is made known…..I feel this proposal would ensure the opposite. 

This proposal REMOVES ALL RESPONSIBILITY of ANY PUBLIC ENTITY to advise our Registered Citizens of their LEGAL requirements. 

Today the Virginia State Police inform our Offenders of the most elementary rules and they will only answer questions when prompted by an Offender who is attempting to remain compliant. They are NOT forthcoming with a list of Do’s and Don’ts, nor do they update our Offenders when new restrictions take effect on July 1st, I’ve been asking for such a handout for years. So finally this autumn I produced one myself, Legal Do’s and Don’ts Brochure 

With this bill Virginians attempting to remain compliant COULD be given false or misleading information (unintentionally OR otherwise) and the individual would be liable for a felony, while the Government entity that gave the wrong information would not hold any accountability 

Last summer I notified all of you of a situation of a young man who was getting married and planning to honeymoon in Europe. He went to the VSP and asked what his requirements to travel abroad would be; they told him there was no requirement. He knew there was because of my website; he was persistent and contacted me. I wanted this young man to avoid a felony and being apprehended by US Marshal’s at the airport when he returned home. Because of my email notifying all of you that the VSP did not give him accurate information, he was finally given the proper information and the proper forms which he filed out just in time before the 21 day deadline before he left for his honeymoon. Otherwise he would have faced a felony. 

I also advised all of you back in October 2013 of a situation where the VSP refused to take a photograph of an offender when it had been two years and per law he was required to submit to a new photograph. The VSP Trooper refused, he argued that it was not his responsibility. After reaching out to all of you I received an apology form the VSP that the Trooper was wrong and should have taken the photograph. 

There are just 2 examples  from many that I’ve shared with you over the last 7 years of being the Sex Offender advocate. 

If we can not depend on the Virginia State Police to inform those on the VSP Registry of their obligations……. then WHO WILL? Compliance becomes a “guessing game”. 

Accountability breeds Responsibility.

With this proposal you are removing BOTH from State entities but you’d STILL be demanding BOTH from our citizens. 

There will be more felonies, more prosecutions, a higher recidivism rate and more citizens being incarcerated.  

In the end…..with this bill…….we create a lose-lose situation for everyone. 

 

40 Virginia Senators: