By Laura London
Lawmakers amended the state’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act during the Legislature’s 2013 session, closing some loopholes and clarifying issues.
HB 570 (PDF): Sex Offender Tiers, Registration & Information, effective July 1, was discussed at the New Mexico Association of Counties legislative update April 10 at the Socorro County Annex.
HB 570 makes many changes to SORNA, including redefining “out-of-state registrant” to mean anybody who establishes a residence in New Mexico while required to register as a sex offender in another state, according to the summary of the bill included with its fiscal impact report, which is posted on the Legislature’s website.
District 15 Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto said the bill cleans up some legal equivalency issues regarding out-of-state sex offenders who move to New Mexico. He explained New Mexico has certain specified crimes that will get a person on the sex offender registry, as do all other states. However, if another state’s specified crime doesn’t really have an equivalent under New Mexico law, an offender listed on that state’s registry may not have to register in New Mexico.
Ivey-Soto said HB 570 was partly inspired by the case of [name withheld], who had to register as a sex offender in California but not in New Mexico.
According to the New Mexico Supreme Court opinion filed in [name withheld]'s case in December 2012, [name withheld] had been convicted on a misdemeanor statute in California for “annoying or molesting” minors due to his inappropriate touching of several boys, and he had to register as a sex offender. [name withheld] then moved to New Mexico in 2006, and in 2008 was charged with failure to register as a sex offender in Las Cruces.
The district court in Las Cruces denied [name withheld]'s motion to dismiss the charge, according to background information included with the Supreme Court opinion, but the state Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s ruling. The Court of Appeals held that the California “annoying or molesting” statute was not equivalent to New Mexico’s criminal sexual contact of a minor law under SORNA; therefore, [name withheld] was not required to register upon moving to New Mexico.
The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision in December and sent the case back to district court, stating in its opinion there was not enough record of [name withheld]'s actual conduct to determine whether it would have been considered a registrable offense in New Mexico.
“And so, we dealt with some of the equivalency issues,” Ivey-Soto said. “We also dealt with the time frame for having to register if you move here from another state.”
Ivey-Soto said the bill requires offenders to register for the same amount of time as required in their old state, or for as long as they would have to register had they been convicted in New Mexico — whichever time period is longer.
“And part of this, of course — all the states are competing so that no one is a haven for sex offenders,” Ivey-Soto said. “So part of it is we want to put as many disincentives as possible.”
For offenders moving to different addresses within New Mexico, Ivey-Soto said the law tightens up the period of time they have to update their registration with law enforcement. They previously had 10 days to update any changes in their information with the local sheriff’s department; now they have five days.
Ivey-Soto said the bill also expands the list of information law enforcement has to collect from sex offenders, as well as standardizes the list so all sheriff’s departments collect the same information. He said that previously different sheriff’s departments were collecting different details according to what each considered relevant.
HB 570′s fiscal impact report states sex offenders must provide the sheriff’s department not only a current address, but the physical and mailing address, as well as the address of every place where the offender habitually lives; the names, email addresses, monikers or other self-identifiers the offender uses on social networking sites; telephone numbers; professional licenses; license plates or other identifiers, plus descriptions of any vehicle owned or primarily operated by the offender, including aircraft and watercraft; name and address of any school or institution of higher education the offender attends; and copies of the offender’s passport and immigration documents.
Ivey-Soto said the bill also clarifies that a sex offender’s place of business — if the business has contact with children — must be posted along with the offender’s other information on the state’s sex offender registry website.
Ivey-Soto said the law should save money for the state, as well as time for sheriff’s departments, since it directs the state Department of Public Safety to send a first-class letter to each sex offender’s last known address two weeks prior to their reporting deadline. He said this will hopefully increase compliance by reminding offenders of their reporting deadline.
“The other thing it will do, if you move — guess what — the letter gets returned,” Ivey-Soto said. “And that’s a whole lot cheaper than sending a squad out to knock on everybody’s door … and we can identify a lot quicker who may have absconded.”