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Sex offender bill proposed

January 07, 2006|By Tamela Baker

tammyb@herald-mail.com

GLEN BURNIE, MD. -

Convicted sex offenders in Maryland deemed to be the most dangerous would face life in prison or lifetime monitoring under legislative proposals formally announced Friday by Gov. Robert Ehrlich. The governor's plan also would prohibit sex offenders from entering school property or child-care facilities without permission.

Ehrlich traveled to Glen Burnie to announce a package of 10 proposals at Glendale Elementary School, where a registered sex offender was discovered on school grounds last year. The offender was arrested, but later released because state law did not appear to prohibit offenders from being on school property, according to the governor's office.

Ehrlich's legislative package would:

· Require mandatory lifetime supervision with electronic monitoring for any sexually violent predator or child sexual offender who does not receive a life sentence.

· Double required minimum registration for all sexual offenders from 10 to 20 years, increase minimum registration requirements from annual to twice per year and increase registration for child sexual offenders from annual to four times per year. Offenders would have to provide new photographs yearly, and all offenders would be required to register in person.

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· Require all sexual offenders released from correctional facilities to be under parole/probation supervision for a minimum of 20 years.

· Expand school trespassing laws to prohibit sexual offenders from entering public or private school property or property used as a child-care facility without permission.

· Increase the penalty for failing to register from a misdemeanor to a felony and raise the maximum sentence from three years to five.

· Prohibit sexual offenders from living near public or private schools or child-care facilities.

· Require all registered offenders who previously have not provided DNA samples to do so no later than their next registration.

· Require sexual offender registrations to be included in the Maryland Criminal Justice Information System so that child-care employers will have access.

· Create a Sexual Offender Compliance and Enforcement Advisory Board to advise the administration and the legislature on best use of electronic monitoring systems, supervision and treatment of offenders, operation of the Sexual Offender Registry and aid to law enforcement to ensure compliance.

· Empower courts and the Division of Parole and Probation to use electronic monitoring systems to supervise sex offenders.

The General Assembly convenes Wednesday in Annapolis. Tightening penalties for sex offenders is expected to be a major issue during the 90-day legislative session.

Friday's announcement was "one part of what's been going on for six months," Alan Friedman, Ehrlich's director of legislative relations, told The Herald-Mail. While other state officials, notably Attorney General Joseph Curran, are proposing their own plans to crack down on sex offenders, Friedman said Ehrlich's package was put together by a work group comprised of people directly involved with the problem.

Among the agencies involved were Maryland State Police, the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and its Division of Parole and Probation, Friedman said.

"The attorney general doesn't have responsibility for the registry and prosecution," Friedman said. "We've talked to everyone involved. The governor's approach has been very, very serious and very comprehensive."

Ehrlich plans to include an additional $700,000 in his fiscal year 2007 budget proposal to help local law enforcement agencies track offenders, Friedman said, and $2 million for victim services through child advocacy centers.

In 2004, Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, sponsored legislation to form a task force to study using Global Positioning Systems to monitor sex offenders. That task force has just issued its report, Friedman said, "and we're looking at it now. We want to make it part of the process."

The governor's office wants to make electronic monitoring requirements broad enough to allow courts to take advantage of developing technology, Friedman said.

In the meantime, the state is continuing a crackdown it began late last summer to track down convicted sex offenders who had not complied with registration requirements, and also is providing additional assistance to victims and communities. Friedman said the state has reduced the number of noncompliant sex offenders by more than 36 percent since August.

The state has created a second Web site, www.socem.info , that provides information on noncompliant offenders, which allows members of the public to report information on them. Friedman said Ehrlich ordered all state-owned cell phones to be connected to wireless Amber Alerts, and said any member of the public also can be connected by contacting the www.wirelessamberalerts.org Web site.

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