To address what they see as a flaw in the state’s current sexual offender laws, Sen. Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove have reintroduced legislation to require county prosecutors to determine sexual offenders’ risk of re-offense – or tier – prior to their release from incarceration.
Prosecutors classify sex offenders in one of three tiers based on the degree of risk they pose to the public: low risk/tier 1, moderate risk/tier 2, or high risk/tier 3.
“Current law prevents sex offenders from being tiered until they have been released into the community because the offender’s residence status is a factor that is considered in determining risk of re-offense,” the three members of the 9th District delegation said in a joint statement. “To address this glaring defect in the current law, our legislation would remove the residency from the factors used in the determination process so that sexual offenders are tiered before they are released into the community.”
The introduction of this legislation, the lawmakers explained, followed conversations with local law enforcement personnel, including county prosecutors, “who warned about the inherent problems created by tiering convicted sex offenders after they have been released from incarceration. Given the transient nature of sexual offenders, it is not uncommon for these individuals to flee before ever being tiered.”
“As a consequence, in these situations law enforcement and the public do not have a complete picture as to the offender’s likelihood of re-offending. Tiering classifications determine the level of community notification, which includes such information as an offender’s name, description and photograph, address, place of employment or school if applicable, a description of the offender’s vehicle and license plate number, and a brief description of the offense.”
Throughout the past several legislative sessions, Connors, Rumpf and Gove have called for the state’s existing sexual offender statutes to be strengthened to better protect children and communities.
“While there are those that would argue that the residency factor allows for better determination of a sexual offender’s risk of re-offending, we strongly feel that it actually serves to the detriment of public safety and only complicates the responsibilities of law enforcement in tracking persons required to register under Megan’s Law,” they noted.
Upon reintroduction, the measures were referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Both companion measures have bipartisan sponsorship.