Three pieces of legislation dealing with sexual predators were introduced within the last week in Sacramento.
The first, Senate Bill 1204, was authored by Sen. George Runner. SB1204 would require sex offenders to register online addresses with state law enforcement.
Failure to do so would earn them a penalty of six months in jail. The measure passed the Senate Public Safety Committee and moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration.
"We know where they live and now we will know what web pages, instant messaging names and email addresses they control," Runner said. "The Internet has become a virtual playground to predators. It makes sense to force convicted sex offenders to share their online addresses with law enforcement."
Besides registering online addresses, one of the objectives of SB 1204 is to prevent sex offenders from joining Facebook, MySpace and other social networking websites. While on parole, sex offenders can be prohibited from accessing social networking sites. Once parole is completed, however, a sex offender is free to join such sites.
By requiring sex offenders to register their online addresses, SB 1204 not only creates a database for law enforcement but creates a tool, which can be used to remove sexual predators from social networking sites.
While the law cannot directly prohibit sex offenders who are no longer on parole from joining, Runner hopes that online address information collected under SB 1204 may be used to permit social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to voluntarily purge registered sex offenders from the sites.
Senator Tony Strickland introduced SB 1253, which would prohibit a defendant convicted of lewd or lascivious acts on a child being placed or residing within a half-mile ofo the child victim's residence.
This differs from existing law that restricts residence within a half-mile of a school or park.
"We need to do all we can to protect children who are victims of sexual assault. We need to make sure these kids are kept safe and feel protected in their neighborhood," Strickland said. "While there's still more to be done to crack down on child molesters, my bill is a step in the right direction towards ensuring these kids' safety."
SB 1253 passed the Senate Public Safety Committee and is headed for the Senate floor for a full vote.
Perhaps the bill that's received the most attention is AB1844, or "Chelsea's Law," authored by Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher of San Diego and named for murder victim Chelsea King. Convicted sex offender John Gardner III has confessed to killing King and another area teen, Amber Dubois.
The new law strengthens penalties for forcible sex crimes against children, depending on the victim's age and severity of the crime. It adds to state law a one strike sentencing provision, lifetime parole and GPS monitoring and establishes "safe zones" that would prohibit sex offenders from visiting places where children congregate.
"Today is the first hurdle in the process to better protect California's children from violent sexual predators. The broad, bipartisan support we received from the committee is further proof that public safety and the protection of California's children, is not a partisan issue. Public safety is the very reason government exists," Fletcher said.
Chelsea's Law now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.