With the legislature scheduled to adjourn next week, House and Senate leaders are trying to find a late-session compromise on a sex offender bill. The Senate adopted a bill that would prescribe a sentence of 25 years to life for first-time offenders whose victims are under age 13.
Republican Representative Clel Baudler of Greenfield says the house wants to adopt a bill that creates a series of tougher prison sentences instead, so judges can choose based on the circumstances of a case. Baudler says they want to give judges the power to take people off the sex-offender registry in some circumstances.
He uses the example of a case in which an 18-year-old had consensual sex with a fourteen-year-old.”Mom catches ’em and charges him and he pleads guilty, he’s on the sex offender registry. Later on they get married,” he suggests, have kids and they can’t live in some places because of the old conviction. Baudler says this bill would let the offender go back to court and ask to be removed from the 2000-foot residence restriction that’s currently a part of the sex-offender registry rules.
Baudler says prosecutors worry a very harsh penalty will eliminate the chance for a plea bargain, and mean more young victims will be forced to testify in court. Baudler points out a victim of rape or abuse must be interviewed by police and examined by a doctor, then make depositions and testify in court between a jury and other people, as well as the perpetrator.
Baudler says if there’s no D-N-A evidence, his committee felt that making a victim go through testimony might result in fewer convictions. Baudler says the House Public Safety Committee talked about getting rid of the 2-thousand-foot residence requirement completely, but decided it would be too difficult politically.