SD34 - "Megan's Law" or Community Notification for Sex Offenders

Executive Summary:
In 1996 the General Assembly directed the Virginia State Crime Commission to study the feasibility of enacting legislation to provide for public access to information on sex offenders when released, commonly known as "Megan's Law". The Crime Commission convened a task force to examine the issues comprised of judges, commonwealth attorneys, state and local law enforcement, probation and parole staff, and mental health clinicians. In the first year of the study, the task force recommended legislation which created a subcategory of offenses on the Sex Offender Registry, known as "sexually violent crimes". Offenders convicted of these crimes would be required to register every 90 days for life. These offenders could petition the court for relief from this provision after three years. The task force also expanded the registry offenses. In the second year of the study (SJR249) the Crime Commission was directed to develop legislation for sex offender information access. The task force was reconvened and worked toward the development of such legislation. A number of recommendations have been made.

The task force recommended that additional crimes be added to the Sex Offender Registry and to the "sexually violent offense'' subcategory. Clarifying legislation will be introduced to identify the Department of State Police as the lead agency for enforcement of registration violations.

The task force recommended that legislation be drafted which allowed anyone seeking information concerning a sex offender registered on the Virginia Sex Offender and Crimes Against Children Registry to request the information from the State Police. Request forms will be made available in all local law enforcement offices. A web page will be developed on the internet for all "sexually violent offenders" which will include photograph, address, criminal history records, and other pertinent information. All schools, day-care facilities, and other organizations serving vulnerable populations may submit a request to the State Police for automatic notice when a sex offender moves into their area. The legislation will also include a procedure for a sex offender who is convicted of a second or subsequent non- "sexually violent" sex offense to be evaluated for re-designation as a "sexually violent offender". The evaluation will be conducted by the Department of Corrections.

The task force recommendations also included budget requests for funding additional probation and parole officers and funds for community based sex offender treatment. The recommendations directed the Crime Commission to seek Byrne grant funds to develop an evaluation of the community notification legislation and to introduce a continuing study resolution which authorizes the Crime Commission to monitor the implementation of the notification legislation.

Finally, the task force recommended that a study resolution be introduced to direct the Crime Commission to study the feasibility of enacting a civil commitment statute for sex offenders; legislation recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as constitutional.