Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sex offender news

I open the Daily Wipe this morning, and learn that they have editorialized about sex offenders. The Town Talk is rightly concerned that Louisiana let a lot of sex offenders slip thru our grasp during the twin Katrina/Rita unpleasantness. Yeah, we did that.
In November, the Administration for Children and Families matched the names on sex offender registries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with the names of evacuees who applied for disaster assistance. They found 2,000 matches. The challenge now is to find them.
Due diligence is the watchword here.

Some folks are worried about privacy:
Horn has enlisted the Federal Emergency Management Agency in a system that allows state law enforcement agencies to find the offenders who received assistance. This may temporarily ease disputes about privacy issues such as those between local law enforcement agencies and the Red Cross and other agencies that helped and housed evacuees. In cases like this, the community at large has a right to know whether convicted felons are being housed in local emergency shelters.

I worked sex offender cases and sex offender registration while I was with the Division of Probation and Parole. Working with convicted predatory sex offenders on a close daily basis was the main reason I chose to retire and go to work in another agency.

I know that the good officers of the Division are trying to find the offenders. The list is here, and has come down from a couple of hundred right after the hurricane, to the list of a couple of dozen we see here. I would caution everyone that this list is only those folks currently under the supervision of the department. There are those sex offenders out there who are not under the supervision of the Department, and those guys cause me sleepless nights. The sex offenders I am talking about have completed their sentences. They are not on probation or parole. However, Louisiana law makes reference to them, and compels them to comply.

We look to RS 15:542.
§542. Registration of sex offenders

A. Any adult residing in this state who has pled guilty to, has been convicted of, or where adjudication has been deferred or withheld for the perpetration or attempted perpetration of any sex offense and any juvenile who has pled guilty or has been convicted of a sex offense as provided for in Children's Code Article 857 shall register with the sheriff of the parish of the person's residence and with the chief of police if the address of the residence is located in an incorporated area which has a police department. If the adult or juvenile resides in a parish with a population in excess of four hundred fifty thousand, he shall register with the police department of his municipality of residence
The onus is on the offender to register. It is his duty to register. The simple fact of not registering makes him a felon. We go to the sentencing provisions of that section to learn that:
F.(1) A person who fails to register as required by this Section shall, upon first conviction, be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned with or without hard labor for not less than one year nor more than five years, or both.

(2) Upon second or subsequent convictions, whoever fails to register as required by this Section shall be fined not less than one thousand dollars nor more than two thousand five hundred dollars or imprisoned with or without hard labor for not less than three years nor more than ten years without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.
It is my understanding that if an offender moves out of state and fails to register, he is still in violation of Louisiana law and may be in violation of the other state law, and may be prosecuted under either or both statutes.

If you are living in an area where Katrina/Rita evacuees are housed, exercise due diligence in dealing with them. The vast majority, 99% or better, are good honest, hard-working folks who need help getting their life together. That 1% might be a sex offender. That 1% might be a felon. Protect yourself.

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