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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Update & Action Item for SB1072-Deeds: If Virginia’s Trespassing Law Requires Posted Signage OR Prior Notification For It to Be a Crime, Then So Shouldn't Our RSO Loitering Law?

100 Feet = 33.33 Yards

There’s Good News and there’s Bad News on SB1072-Deeds which will determine the outcome of its Companion HB1485-D.Bell/Lingamfelter/O’Quinn. 

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knew on the evening of January 18th about the one amendment to SB1072 but now that I have the time I can post the whole 3 day long story. 

On Monday January 16th SB1072 was scheduled to be heard by the Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee (as I previously posted about) and it was. 

Senator Deeds told the Committee this Bill came at the request of the State Police and a new VSP Representative that I have never seen at the last 8 Virginia General Assembly sessions came forward to speak in favor of the Bill. 

VSP Lt. Keenon Hook told the Senate Committee this: 

“This Bill addresses what VA already sees as public policy Sex Offenders not having unrestricted access to children.  

This Bill also corrects what is NOW an incentive for Offenders who have their convictions in other States move to Virginia. 27 other States have restrictions and these Child Sex Offenders are able to relocate to VA to avoid those restrictions… creates an incentive for them to do so. So this Bill will correct that”. 

This is word-for-word, taken from my audio recording of the hearing. 

No amendments or substitutions were submitted by Senator Deeds. 

I then stood to oppose the Bill; I was the ONLY person who spoke in opposition. I began raising my concerns the same concerns I had already shared with every Virginia Delegate and Senator via email and via handout delivered to every Legislators office. The Chairman of the Committee Senator Obenshain stopped me twice, first to claim that residency restrictions as policy in VA have already been decided so that isn’t the issue to be debated that day and then he stopped me when I began the point about not conviction date being included so the VSP would apply it retroactively which would result in a n unknown number of current RSO’s residences becoming illegal as of July 1st. The Chairman directed Senator Deeds and Lt. Hook to work with me on a way to ensure that didn’t happen. Then SB1072 was “passed by for the day” to be taken up again at the next Senate Courts of Justice meeting, which was Wednesday January 18th. So I reinterred to Deeds and Hook of to the side of the room not just that issue with the Bill but the second problem of no notification to the RSO’s who’d be required to know about their change in the loitering law as of July 1st. 

Later that day via email Lt. Hook sent me an amended Residency restriction proposal that did not add a conviction date of July 1, 2017 but it grandfathered all residences established before July 1, 2017, which was better than nothing. So for the next 2 days I waited to get an answer on my loitering proposal. Neither Lt. Hook nor Senator Deeds responded to me. Luckily I had already scheduled an appointment w/ Deeds the week before for the morning of the 18th but as I expected he wasn’t available to meet so we discussed the second amendment with his Legislative Assistant and I asked her to notify me before the afternoon meeting started if the Senator would or wouldn’t offer the second amendment. I had to follow back up hours later to learn he would not be submitting the amendment so I was going to have to raise the second problem with the Bill to the Committee members when it was reheard during the afternoon docket something I had not been allowed to do on Monday because the Bill had been “passed by”. 
 

So when SB1072 was heard 2 hours and 50 minutes into the Committee meeting I was ready to finish my statement from Monday. Senator Deeds submitted the grandfather clause (January 18 Substitute for SB1072 - http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?171+ful+SB1072S1) to the Committee for the residency portion and acknowledged to the Committee my earlier concern about it being retroactive was valid.  

Chairman Obenshain then wanted to vote on the Bill and I stood up. He stated that I had spoken back on Monday and they weren’t going to allow me to speak a second time and I had to interrupt him and explain that there are 2 problems with this Bill and only one had been acknowledged by the Senator and Lt. Hook and since I was ignored I felt on the second issue the Committee needed to hear it. So as quickly as I could I blurted out as much as I could from what I had prepared. 

The Virginians who will be swept up by this change……previously verified where they could and could not legally “loiter” when they came to the State years ago. 

But now the rules-of-the-game are changing. 

Without notice we're setting them up for failure with an arbitrary felony for simply picking up their sick child from school or dropping them off at soccer practice because this statute does not require criminal intent. 

So I’d like to propose two options. 

Option 1:
  • The State Police will notify all affected Registered Sex Offenders of the change in law that prohibits them from loitering w/ in 100ft via certified mail (as-is done with re-registrations) 30 days PRIOR to the law taking effect on July 1, 2017
Option 2:
  • A start date of January 1, 2018 is added w/ the knowledge that between July 1, 2017 and January 1, 2018 those Offenders who are affected will register at least once if not twice within that 6 month period and in that time-frame the VSP will be sure to get the Offenders signature that they have been notified of the new law that they will be obligated to abide by.
If VA's Trespassing Law requires posted signage OR prior notification for it to be a crime, then so should our Loitering Law. 

Since the expected number of affected Offenders per Lt. Hook back on Monday is so low…..the cost of the certified letters should be miniscule. Certainly much less than the costs of unnecessary arrests, investigations and convictions.
 

Then Lt. Hook approached the podium and told the Committee members that it would be impossible to determine who the loitering change applies to let alone to notify them of the change Senator Deeds agreed and the Committee voted to move SB1072 to the Senate Finance Committee. 
 
Again, as on Monday the 16th I was the ONLY person to speak in opposition of this VSP Bill on Wednesday the 18th. 

Yep! The State Police ask for a law that will be applied retroactively, that would have made some Virginians homeless on July 1st and they have no idea who those people are today and it seems they don’t plan to research it after it takes effect and the Senator on the Courts of Justice Committee are OK with that.I find this claim extremely difficult to accept. 

The Registered Sex Offenders on the VSP Registry are listed by conviction, the statutes and what state. When anyone with a sexual conviction moves to Virginia the VSP looks at their out-of-state /military conviction to compare closest VA statute, then the VSP decides if they must register or not and if so if they’d be classified as Non-Violent or as Violent per the VSP's decision. At that point the VSP knows what legal restrictions apply to that RSO and which ones don’t. 

So how can the VSP claim that they won’t know who this new law will apply to? And if the VSP won’t know then WHY is this law even being proposed? 

For 9 General Assembly sessions I have advocated for data-driven reform of Virginia’s Sex Offender registry and our laws. When I attempted to raise the fact that all evidence-based research concludes residency and loitering laws are baseless last Monday in Courts of Justice Committee, I was stopped. I was advised that this policy already exists in VA and it wasn’t up for debate. Fine, I will let this well documented point go for 2017 but I will not give up on the VSP intentionally setting currently registered and compliant RSO for arbitrary felonies that no one is going to tell them about until after they are arrested.

I am asking all of you to first Email or call your one Virginia Delegate and your one Virginia Senator and ask them to add an amendment that the VSP must notify those who could be arrested for “loitering” on a public street, sidewalk or parking lot near a school, daycare, playground, athletic field or facility or gymnasium as there is no intent to commit a crime with this portion of Virginia Code.

Then I hope you will email or call every member of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee AND Finance Committee (see contact info below). If Virginia’s Trespassing Law requires posted signage OR prior notification for a citizens mere presence to be a crime, then so should our RSO Loitering Law. 

Thank you! 

Mary Devoy
 

2017- Senate Courts of Justice Committee
 
Party
Email
Richmond, VA. During Session
Chairman-                   Mark Obenshain*     *Also on VSCC 
R
804-698-7526
Ben Chafin
R
804-698-7538
Creigh Deeds
D
804-698-7525
John Edwards
D
804-698-7521
Janet Howell*                       *Also on VSCC
D
804-698-7532
L. Louise Lucas*
D
804-698-7518
Ryan McDougle*
R
804-698-7504
Thomas “Tommy” Norment*                          *Also on VSCC   
R
804-698-7503
Mark Peake
R
804-698-7522
Chap Petersen
D
804-698-7534
Bryce Reeves              *Also on VSCC
*Also on VCSC
R
804-698-7517
Richard Saslaw*
D
804-698-7535
William Stanley
R
804-698-7520
Richard Stuart*
R
804-698-7528
Glen Sturtevant
R
804-698-7510
* On both Courts of Justice and Finance Committees

 
2017- Senate Finance Committee
 
Party
Email
Richmond, VA. During Session
C0-Chairman   Thomas “Tommy” Norment*                          *Also on VSCC  
*Also on VCSC
R
804-698-7503
C0-Chairman   Emmett Hanger
R
804-698-7524
George Barker
D
804-698-7539
Charles Carrico
R
804-698-7540
Rosalyn Dance
D
804-698-7516
Siobhan Dunnavant
R
804-698-7512
Janet Howell*                      *Also on VSCC
D
804-698-7532
L. Louise Lucas*
D
804-698-7518
Ryan McDougle*
R
804-698-7504
Stephen Newman
R
804-698-7523
Mark Obenshain*     *Also on VSCC 
R
804-698-7526
Frank Ruff
R
804-698-7515
Richard Saslaw*  
D
804-698-7535
Richard Stuart*
R
804-698-7528
Jill Holtzman Vogel
R
804-698-7527
Frank Wagner
R
804-698-7507
Vacancy?
 
 
 
* On both Courts of Justice and Finance Committees