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Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Bill Would Bar Offenders

By Kate Nash
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE Violent sex offenders would be prohibited from moving to New Mexico, under a bill proposed by Sen. Joseph Carraro, R-Albuquerque.
    "We want to stop them at the border. We want those people to realize they can't come in," Carraro said.
    The bill has yet to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But at least one group opposes the measure.
    "I think it's a violation of the U.S. Constitution," said Diane Wood, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.
    "You are free to move into places. ... I don't think you can do it (the bill)," she said.
    Carraro defends the measure and said he believes it will withstand a court challenge.
    The measure is part of a two-bill package expected to be unveiled today by Carraro and Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez.
    A second measure by Carraro would allow the state to civilly commit or keep in a treatment facility convicted violent sex offenders who are deemed dangerous to society.
    Under that bill, offenders would be given a court hearing once they've completed a jail sentence to determine if they are likely to reoffend.
    Offenders would be re-evaluated once a year.
    Wood said her group opposes the bill, in part because of the high cost of treating sex offenders after they have served time.
    The ACLU also can't support the measure because it could be considered additional punishment, Wood said.
    An analysis of the bill performed by the New Mexico Attorney General's Office says the measure "could be construed to be an additional punishment for certain sex offenders and may not survive a double jeopardy challenge."
    But Carraro said a similar law was upheld in Kansas as lawful.
    The senator also argued other states give New Mexico an unfunded mandate to track convicted offenders who move from other states.
    "Our approach is, we're taking the responsibility (to track offenders without money)," he said.
    Carraro said he's sponsoring the bills in part because of convicted sex offender David Siebers, who moved to Albuquerque late last year. Mayor Martin Chávez made special efforts to inform reporters of Siebers' whereabouts.
    "Because of the media, we know the whereabouts of David Siebers," Carraro said.
    "But how many others are out there that we don't know about? We have no clue."