Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Virginia WTVR Vicious Cycle of Hyping Sex Offenders Among Us: This Weeks Story WTVR Spins One Absconded Unregistered Sex Offender into an Exaggerated Statewide Crisis of Unregistered Offenders Roaming the State Because Virginia Laws Aren't Sufficient.

I emailed the below to WTVR last night. 


Dear Mr. St. George of WTVR, 

Really? Another fear-mongering Sex Offender story. You may be surprised at how often Va. sex offenders go unregistered http://wtvr.com/2015/07/06/you-may-be-surprised-by-how-often-va-sex-offenders-go-unregistered/ 

I have to say WTVR really might be the worst at routinely hyping Registered Sex Offenders in the Commonwealth. 

Your story says “Right now registration is mailed every 90 days and for some it is hard to keep track.” 

Per Virginia law:
  • Registered Sex Offenders (RSO's) who are classified as Non-Violent (approximately 17% of the Virginia Registry) must re-register once per year.
  • Most RSO's who are classified as Violent must re-register every 90 days. A small group of Violent RSO's (see § 9.1-904. for the specific convictions) must re-register every 180 days.
  • Any RSO who has been previously convicted of a Failure-to-Register must re-register every 30 days (regardless of the original conviction or classification).
The Virginia State Police mails out certified letters approximately 2 weeks before the due date to the RSO who can either mail back the letter if there is enough time to meet the deadline (and there usually is not) or take the letter into a VSP Barracks during operating hours (Mon-Fri 8:30-4:00pm, no evenings, no weekends and no holidays) and update the information in-person.

Failure to do so is a Felony 

Last September I sent an email to every Virginia Delegate and Senator as well as the VSP suggesting a fiscally responsible bill for the 2016 Virginia GA session to eliminate these letters, no one took up the cause. 

We also have serious issues with VSP Barracks even staffing the locations to take re-registrations from our RSO’s that I brought to the attention of every Virginia Delegate and Senator that you can read about here and here. A better more streamlined system could be created if the Virginia Legislature and the VSP was willing to consider change, but neither group wants change.   

Per Virginia law Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia have 3 days (not 3 business days) to register in-person (not electronically or over the phone) ANY changes (additions or deletions) with:
  • Legal Name, Nicknames or Aliases
  • Residential Address, including homelessness
  • Mailing Address (P.O. Box)
  • Employer and Location, including self employment and unemployment
  • All Vehicles with name on the title (Auto, Watercraft and Aircraft), including vehicles without license plates
  • All Phone Numbers (Home, Work, Cell)
  • Enrollment with any high school, technical school, college or university, part-time or full-time
Failure to do so is a Felony 

Per law Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia have 30 minutes to register in-person (not electronically or over the phone) any changes (additions or deletions) with:
  • All E-mail addresses (Personal, Work or Shared)
  • All Instant Messaging Identifications     
Failure to do so is a Felony 

So as you can clearly see Virginia law covers updating all information in a timely manner, much faster/sooner than in most States. 

What you don’t seem to get and what attorney Claire Cardwell (former Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney) seems to be willfully ignoring is that all Sex Offender Registries in 50 States (not just Virginia) is based on an honor system. The RSO has to make the effort to update the information within the legal timeframe given by the Legislature and within the operating hours and mailing turning around allotted by the manager of the Registry which is the VSP here in Virginia. That’s a lot of hoops to jump through all while trying to maintain a job or jobs plus family demands. 

After all, registration as a Sex Offender in America is an “administrative act”, not a “punitive” one otherwise it would be unconstitutional and the entire system would be dismantled by the courts. 

So instead of taking one absconded RSO and turning it into a story that registration of Virginia’s RSO’s doesn’t work and there are an unknown number of them on the loose in the State how about making the story about finding that one unregistered Sex Offender? 

Mary Devoy