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Friday, March 14, 2003

Predator Measure Has More Teeth

By Barry Massey
The Associated Press
    SANTA FE A proposal to toughen a law requiring sex offenders to register with local authorities was approved by the House on Thursday and sent to the Senate.
    The measure would change New Mexico's Megan's Law to expand the information that must be disclosed by the sex offender, require more frequent verification of the offender's whereabouts and lengthen the time the registration requirement will apply.
    Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell, said the bill offered additional protections for children "against the worst predators known to mankind."
    Several of the changes will ensure that New Mexico complies with federal requirements and doesn't lose federal grant money.
    The bill passed the House 63-2.
    All 50 states and the federal government have passed some type of sex-offender registration law since 1994 when 7-year-old Megan Kanka was beaten, raped and murdered by a convicted sexual offender who lived near her family's New Jersey home.
    Under the House-passed bill, sex offenders must renew their registration with the county sheriff at least once every 90 days. Currently, the renewal must occur annually, but critics say that doesn't keep authorities adequately notified of a sex offender's whereabouts. A federal Megan's Law requires quarterly verification of the addresses of sex offenders.
    Currently, offenders must provide authorities with their legal name and any aliases, date of birth, Social Security number, current address and place of employment or the school they are attending. Authorities also obtain a photograph and fingerprints.
    The legislation also would require a DNA sample from the offender, information about the offender's motor vehicles and would force the offender to notify a county sheriff within 10 days of starting a job or enrolling at a college.
    New Mexico's law has 10- and 20-year registration periods, depending on the severity of the offense.
    The legislation would require certain offenders to register throughout their life and all other sex offenders would be subject to a 20-year registration period.