The Nevada Supreme Court has put a stay on the implementation of a sex offender law. The law has been in limbo since 2007. That's when state lawmakers approved a bill to comply with federal requirements of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.
Changes to the sex offender registry have been halted due to ongoing litigation. According to the plaintiffs’ legal counsel, not only is this change unconstitutional, but it could take hardcore offenders out of the spotlight.
State Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom (Clark County-D) says there is a difference between types of sex offenders, how they should be penalized and how people find out about them.
"If you look at sex offenders, there's a difference between somebody who had sex with a 16-year-old when they were 18,” he said. “That was illegal. Or, someone who urinated in a park versus somebody that was a serial child molester, and this law basically puts all those people together."
The Nevada Department of Public Safety says new changes would eliminate the use of subjective criteria when placing offenders in tier-level classifications.
If it goes through, more information will be available for the public on all offenders, including where they live and work.
"It based tiers on the basis of what the individual was convicted of and the age of the victim,” said Julie Butler with the Nevada Department of Public Safety. “Previously under the Megan's Law system, offenders were tiered based on the risk of recidivism.”
Adding that classification will also affect how often an offender must appear in person to verify registration information; how many years they must register; and whether certain low-level offenders are exempt from public website disclosure.
"Their photos go on the website, along with the offense that they were convicted of, where they work, where they attend school, where they live, any vehicles they drive frequently,” Butler said.
Attorney Maggie McLetchie represents plaintiffs in the emergency motion aiming to stop the law. She says the extensive community notification could subject offenders – some who have been relieved of their status – in danger.
"There's been studies that show that sex offenders, in fact, are more likely to be subject to violence and vigilante justice issues that occur, because of misuse of sex offender websites,” she said.
"If you're one of those people who urinated in the park, 30 years later, you haven't done anything wrong,” Segerblom said. “I don't think your picture should be on the Internet and your name should be broadcast for everyone to see."
McLetchie says there is no process under the new law for offenders to correct errors or mistakes once on the public website.
She adds that enforcing the change will place a substantial financial burden on taxpayers – including police, probation officers and website creation and management.
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