Friday, September 16, 2005

House OKs tougher penalties for child sex offenders

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Jim Abrams
Associated Press

Washington - Child sex offenders would be subject to stringent monitoring requirements and face new mandatory penalties under a House-passed bill that was expanded to include protections for gays and lesbians under federal hate crime law.

The House voted 371-52 Wednesday in favor of the Children's Safety Act, which, among its many provisions, creates a national Web site for child sex offenders and stipulates that sex felons face up to 20 years in prison for failing to comply with registration requirements.

Only two Ohio lawmakers voted against the bill: Cleveland Democratic Reps. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Dennis Kucinich.

Unexpectedly, the House voted 223-199 in favor of an amendment by Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, that expands current hate crime law to include some crimes involving sexual orientation, gender and disability. Under current law, the federal government assists local and state authorities prosecuting limited types of crimes based on the victim's race, religion or ethnic background.

The Ohioans split along party lines on that part of the bill, with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans voting against it.

The sex offender bill requires felony offenders to register for life and authorizes the death penalty for sex crimes resulting in the killing of a child. The bill responds to what House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, said was a "national crisis" in child sex offenses. He said that of some 550,000 convicted sex offenders in the nation, the whereabouts of 100,000 are unknown.

Sensenbrenner said the legislation would get favorable treatment in the Senate and he expected it to be signed into law by the end of the year.

The White House, in a statement, expressed support, saying that even though sex crimes against children have declined significantly in recent years, more needs to be done.

Among provisions of the bill:

It creates a national Web site and requires states to notify the federal government of any changes to a sex offender's registration information. States are required to notify each other when a sex offender moves from one state to another.

It requires each state to maintain a statewide Internet site to include such information as an offender's address, picture, vehicle and facts of his conviction.

It broadens the category of sex offenders to include any felony or misdemeanor sex offenses against minors. The category of crimes covered by the bill is expanded to include juvenile sex offenses and possession of child pornography.

Felony sex offenders will have to register for life, and misdemeanor sex offenders for 20 years.

It ensures mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes against children, ranging from death or life imprisonment when a child is killed and 30 years in prison for crimes involving kidnapping, maiming or aggravated sexual abuse.

It expands the use of DNA evidence to solve sex crimes.

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