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Bill would limit sex offenders

CARSON CITY — A bill that would prohibit the worst sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or park or loitering within 500 feet of places frequented by children was approved Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 232, which would only affect what are called Tier 3 sex offenders, would impose distance limitations similar to those in many other states.

The bill was sought by Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, in part to make Nevada a less appealing place for sex offenders to relocate to from other states.

Titus had proposed prohibiting sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park or loitering within 500 feet of places, such as video arcades or movie theaters.

The judiciary committee reduced the limit for residences to 1,000 feet.

The bill, if it wins approval in the Legislature, would allow such sex offenders to own residences within the 1,000-foot limit.

But the offender would not be able to reside at the residence. If a Tier 3 offender is living within the 1,000-foot zone when the law took effect, he would have to move at his own expense.

Called “community safe zones,” the distance prohibitions have been challenged in some states, Titus said in testimony on the bill in March. But the limits were upheld by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an Iowa case, she said.

Senate Judiciary Committee member Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said the bill is necessary to protect Nevada. Many other states have such limits, which makes Nevada a haven for sex offenders, he said.

Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, expressed a concern that a sex offender could accidentally violate the distance limitations by walking or driving down a street without knowing a school or park was nearby.

The bill was amended to include the word “knowingly” for loitering near a prohibited location.

John Gonska, administrator of the Division of Parole and Probation, said the agency would have some discretion in determining when a sex offender was deliberately violating such limits or was accidentally in a prohibited area.

The bill makes other changes to toughen sex offender laws as well.

The measure would increase the number of a years a person convicted a sexual assault of a child under age 16 would have to serve before being eligible for parole from 20 years to 25 years and from 20 years to 35 years for an assault against a child under age 14.

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