2006-01-25 / Features

Expanded, Tougher Megan’s Law Signed By Pataki

by John Toscano

The Assembly had approved a law to keep the sexual predators on the registry under a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria).The Assembly had approved a law to keep the sexual predators on the registry under a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria). Heading off a standoff on toughening Megan’s Law and keeping convicted sexual predators on a state registry, state legislative leaders worked out a compromise that expands and strengthens the landmark statute under legislation passed and signed by Governor George Pataki.

The legislation puts more teeth in the law by lengthening the amount of time sex offenders remain on the state’s Sex Offender Registry. Without the legislation being enacted, more than 300 Level 1 and Level 2 sex offenders who had been on the registry for 10 years would have been removed from it last Saturday.

The Assembly had approved a law to keep the sexual predators on the registry under a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria).

The state senate was not satisfied with the bill and signified its intentions not to pass it. In last-minute negotiations rarely seen in Albany, the Assembly and senate worked out their differences and passed the law signed by the governor.

Pleased by the series of events, Pataki declared afterward: “We’ve pushed for years to strengthen Megan’s Law, and today I’m proud that we are taking yet another step forward in our fight to keep New York’s children and families safe.”

The governor added that the new legislation will ensure that all sex offenders remain on the registry, most for life, and continue to give every parent and family the right to know exactly where sex offenders live.

The unexpectedly quick action on changes in the registry provisions was greeted warmly by local Democratic lawmakers also.

Gianaris stated: “We need tougher laws to keep these heinous criminals off our streets and to ensure they never escape the eyes of the law.”

The Gianaris bill passed last week had been a stopgap measure to assure that those on the registry would remain beyond the cutoff date of last Saturday in order to allow time for a federal law to be enacted. He also sponsored a bill calling for lifetime registry.

State Senator George Onorato (D–Astoria), noting that the bill signed by the governor was negotiated by a bipartisan Senate/Assembly Conference Committee, declared: “The bill we passed would create a framework for keeping these extremely dangerous criminals off our neighborhood streets, and [provide] them with treatment after they have completed their prison sentences.”

City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) stated, “This is a step in the right direction, but obviously more must be done.”

Vallone, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, noted that a year ago, he had introduced a resolution calling on the legislature to do “exactly what Albany has currently agreed to do.”

He added: “Registration, electronic monitoring and housing restrictions are all positive steps, but they can only do so much to protect our children. The real answer is to lock these animals in cages for as long as possible.”

State Senator Frank Padavan (R–C, Bellerose), commenting on the governor’s bill signing, declared: “Nearly half of all convicted, violent sexual predators released from prison return to prison because of their commission of new sexual offenses and violations of parole. That’s the cold, hard fact of this particularly heinous crime. It’s vital we do everything possible to fix this problem.”

Padavan said Megan’s Law provides the tools to keep children safe, but noted that more than 300 convicted sexual felons, meeting the 10-year registry requirement despite their proclivity toward continued sexual predatory crimes, would have been allowed anonymity, dropping off the registry and moving back into local neighborhoods, putting children, once again at unnecessary risk. That’s preposterous.

The new law requires that Level 3 sex offenders, the most dangerous, must remain on the registry for life. Level 2 sex offenders must also remain on the registry for life, but can petition a court to be removed from the registry after 30 years. Level 1 sex offenders must remain on the registry for 20 years.

Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry (D–East Elmhurst) stated, “This law will help keep important information available and empower communities to keep the threat of that danger reduced.” He said Megan’s Law has been an effective tool in keeping communities informed about the potential dangers lurking in local neighborhoods.

Megan’s Law took effect in 1996 and has been amended several times since. The Sex Offender Registration Act requires registration as a sex offender upon conviction of a listed offense or an attempt to commit a listed offense. There are currently more than 40 registrable offenses in New York state.

Currently, although New Yorkers can obtain information regarding Level 3 sex offenders from the Internet and information regarding Level 2 and Level 3 offenders from local law enforcement agencies, information about Level 1 sex offenders can be obtained only by calling the Sex Offender Registry information line at 800-262-3257, a representative of the governor’s office said.

A caller must provide one of four identifiers for the individual about whom information is sought: a driver’s license number, Social Security number, date of birth or exact address.

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