Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore on Thursday said she would use one of her bill drafts in the next legislative session to rework the state’s controversial sex offender law that was adopted to comply with a federal act.
In 2006, Congress approved the Adam Walsh Act as a guideline for state laws on sex crimes. The act was intended to toughen punishment for sex offenders and make their photos, names and addresses available to the general public.
Nevada lawmakers in 2007 adopted most provisions of the federal law. The state law, proposed in Assembly Bill 579, was set to go into effect Feb. 1, but the Nevada Supreme Court put a temporary stop to it following a lawsuit filed on behalf of 24 unnamed clients.
It was not the first legal challenge the law had faced since 2007.
“I just don’t think that AB579 is fitting nor (is) appropriate for the state of Nevada,” Fiore, R-Las Vegas, said during a meeting of the Advisory Committee to Study Laws Concerning Sex Offender Registration. “I really, truly believe that we have very intelligent legislators and judges, that could bring forth this next legislative session much more comprehensive guidelines than what’s implemented in this” legislation.
The state law applies to anyone convicted of a felony sex crime involving children and is retroactive to 1956. There are about 3,000 registered sex offenders in Nevada, and that number is expected to dramatically increase under the law.
Susan Roske, an attorney with Clark County’s juvenile public defender’s office, said if the committee doesn’t make a recommendation to the Legislature to repeal the law entirely, an alternative could be to amend parts of the law that address juveniles.
In response to various states concerned about the federal act’s impact on juvenile offenders, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking has said juvenile courts can have discretion in keeping juvenile offenders off the public website that would display their personal information, Roske said.
The committee could ask the state Legislature to acknowledge those changes and grant juvenile court judges that discretion, she said. The change wouldn’t apply to juveniles being charged as adults.
“I would strongly urge that this change be made,” she said Thursday.
Tod Story, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said he would recommend the state suspend the implementation of the law and examine why lawmakers rushed to adopt it in 2007.
Thus far, only 17 states have passed laws which “substantially implement” the federal act, Story said. The remaining 33 states are either unable or unwilling to comply with the requirements.
“It’s a bad law and it wasn’t thought through,” Roske said.
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