In the most recent step of the legislative process, the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee approved the newest version of the Tiered Registry Bill (SB 384) yesterday. The bill is now moving forward to the full Assembly for a floor vote in a few days where it may pass and if so, then on to the Senate the same day for a concurrence vote.
The newest version of the Tiered Registry Bill was created behind closed doors and was made public only a few days ago. The new bill resembles a monster of Frankenstein its jumbled and sometimes contradictory provisions. The new bill helps some and hurts many others.
The new bill differs dramatically from previous versions of the Tiered Registry Bill (SB 421) in several ways. The most dramatic difference is the assignment of all individuals convicted of felony child pornography (CP) to Tier 3. Due to that difference, there has been a loud hue and cry from registrants and family members who would be affected both directly and indirectly.
Their cry is understandable for many reasons. First, empirical evidence clearly states that those convicted of a CP offense are very unlikely to re-offend. Second, empirical evidence shows that those convicted of a CP offense have not and will not commit a violent or contact offense.
Third, there is a fundamental lack of fairness, logic and rational thinking in requiring an individual convicted once of a non-contact, non-violent offense to register for the same period of time as an individual convicted of multiple violent offenses. For example, a 16-year-old girl who sent nude selfies to her fellow high school students will be required to register for the same period of time as Phil Garrido who sexually assaulted his victim for 18 years. Finally, the expectations of those convicted of CP offenses and their loved ones were not dashed, but were annihilated by the new tier assignment.
During the short time available between the public release and the committee’s consideration of the bill, ACSOL lobbied strongly to revise downward (from Tier 3 to Tier 1) felony CP offenses. Our lobbying efforts failed because the skids of that bill were greased before it became public. That is, it was learned that an agreement had already been reached between members of the legislature and law enforcement, with prompting from the Governor, to move forward the current version of the bill.
The question now is what can we do? What is the path forward?
As difficult as it is, we need to wait. We need to wait to see if the legislature passes SB 384 and if the Governor signs the bill into law. We will know that outcome no later than October 15.
If the bill does become law, there are at least two ways to challenge it – future legislation and litigation. Future legislation is possible because the law would not take effect until January 2021. During the 4-year period between its passage and its effective date, new legislation could be passed that moves felony CP offenses from Tier 3 to Tier 1.
Future litigation is possible only after the law takes effect and could be challenged on many grounds including the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There may be additional ways to challenge SB 384 and perhaps the entire registry in the future if courts continue to issue favorable decisions, such as Does v. Snyder, Commonwealth v. Muniz and Millard v. Rankin.
In order to succeed on any level, we must Show Up, Stand Up and Speak Up in increasing numbers. Larger numbers of volunteers will be needed to attend legislative hearings, to serve as plaintiffs and to make financial contributions. With that support, we can and will succeed!
— by Janice Bellucci
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