GOVERNOR SIGNS LEGISLATION TO EXPAND, STRENGTHEN MEGANS LAW

Will Lengthen Time Sex Offenders Remain on Sex Offender Registry Keep Thousands of Sex Offenders from Falling Off List This Year

Governor George E. Pataki, joined by Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, today signed legislation that will expand and strengthen New York Megan's Law by lengthening the amount of time sex offenders remain on the State's Sex Offender Registry. Without this legislation being enacted, Level 1 and Level 2 sex offenders, who have been on the State's Sex Offender Registry for ten years, would be removed from the registry as of Saturday, January 21st.

"We've pushed for years to strengthen Megan's Law, and today I am proud that we are taking yet another step forward in our fight to keep New York's children and families safe," Governor Pataki said. "This new legislation will ensure that all sex offenders remain on the registry, most for life, and continue to give every parent and family the right to know exactly where sex offenders live."

"While this is a significant accomplishment, there is much more work to be done. We still need to work together to pass new laws that would further toughen Megan's Law, protect our children and families by civilly confining dangerous sexual predators, toughen sentences for those who molest and rape children, end the statute of limitations on rape, and require every criminal to submit a DNA sample to the State's DNA Databank," the Governor added.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said, "I want to commend Senator Skelos and the joint legislative conference committee for their hard work in reaching this agreement before hundreds of sex offenders were allowed to simply vanish from the registry and blend back into society, where they could pose a dangerous threat to our children and our communities. This law will keep our neighborhoods better protected from the predators who prey on the most vulnerable members of our communities -- our children. I applaud Governor Pataki for taking quick action and signing this bill into law."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "Since the enactment of Megan's Law 10 years ago, the Legislature has acted repeatedly to strengthen the statute. The legislation being signed today is necessary to ensure public safety while federal legislation is being enacted."

Assembly Republican Leader James Tedisco said, "This was a victory for children and families. In the end, both houses and both parties came together with the Governor and did the right thing to pass this important legislation. Now we need to do the same thing for civil commitment."

The new law requires that Level 3 sex offenders remain on the Sex Offender Registry for life; that Level 2 sex offenders remain on Registry for life, but could petition a court to be removed from the Registry after 30 years; and that Level 1 sex offenders would remain on the Registry for 20 years.

Senator Dean Skelos said, "Our tough new registration law ensures that the most dangerous sex offenders never escape the Sex Offender Registry and establishes a model for the rest of the nation to follow. It also demonstrates the effectiveness of the public conference committee process. Hopefully, we will build upon this success by convening conference committees for civil commitment legislation, mandatory community notification, email notification and other important measures needed to protect children and families from sexual predators."

Senator Michael F. Nozzolio said, "This new law will help protect our communities by ensuring that most dangerous sex offenders do not come off the statewide registry. Now we need to go one step further and strengthen the community notification provisions of Megan's Law so people are informed when a sex offender locates in their neighborhood so the public, especially children, can be better protected."

Senator John J. Flanagan said, "I am pleased that my colleagues from both parties and both chambers put partisan politics aside for the safety and security of our families. People deserve to know about the presence of rapists and pedophiles in their community especially since study after study shows that sex offenders are likely to repeat their crimes again and again. It is critical that we continue to do everything we can to help families protect their children, especially from dangerous sexual offenders who prey on young people."

Senator Nick Spano said, "Too many children have been hurt and have died at the hands of pedophiles. This bill will ensure the protection of our children and allow the government to track those sexual predators who want to hurt our children."

Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry said, "Megan's Law has been an effective tool in keeping communities informed about the potential danger lurking in our neighborhoods. This law will help keep important information available and empower communities to keep the threat of that danger reduced."

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said, "This legislation seeks to provide New Yorkers with the information they need to better protect their families. It strengthens New York's sexual predator laws even more."

Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein said, "The action being taken today is an important step in increasing public safety. We remain prepared to respond to likely Congressional action that would require New York's law to conform with revised federal standards."

Assemblyman David Koon said, "I am proud to have worked on this agreement in a bipartisan way. I am confident that the extended and enhanced Megan's Law registry will prevent predators from disappearing into our community, disguised as friendly neighbors, waiting to prey on their next victim."

Laura Ahearn, Executive Director of Parents for Megan's Law said, "Protecting children from sexual predators requires us to continually evaluate what is working and what more needs to be done. Today, New York has taken a giant step forward for our children's safety by recognizing the need and enacting the legislation to provide for lifetime registration for Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders. It is my sincere hope that we can capitalize on this momentum and further enhance children's safety by making all sex offender registry information available via the Internet and by passing legislation that will allow the state to civilly commit violent sexual predators, extend the statute of limitations where DNA evidence is present in violent sex offense cases. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing for our children. I applaud the Governor for his leadership and in always doing the right thing for our children."

New York State Director of Criminal Justice Chauncey G. Parker said, "Protecting our families from dangerous predators requires a multi-pronged approach that addresses the many challenges that arise when sex offenders return to live in our communities. For years the Governor has been fighting to give parents and criminal justice professionals a comprehensive plan that will protect our children from dangerous sexual predators; and today we are one step closer to achieving this goal. I am confident that if we continue to work together we will be able to implement the four other components of the Governor's 5-Point plan: requiring the civil confinement of dangerous sexual predators; creating longer sentences for those convicted of sexually violent crimes; ending the statute of limitations for rape and sexual assaults; and requiring every criminal who commits a crime to give a DNA sample. We know that all of these measures will make New York a safer place to live."

During his 12th and final State of the State Address two weeks ago, the Governor made a strong call for new laws that would further protect our children and families by: requiring the civil confinement of dangerous sexual predators; imposing longer sentences for those who molest and rape children, or commit violent or repeat sexual assaults; strengthening New York's Megan's Law; ending the statute of limitations on rape and sexual assaults; and requiring all criminals to submit a DNA sample to the State's DNA Databank.

Over the past ten years, violent crime in New York State has been cut in half. Crime is at its lowest levels since statewide crime reporting began - nearly 40 years ago.

NEW YORK'S MEGAN'S LAW

Effective in 1996, and expanded in 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2004, New York State's Sex Offender Registration Act requires registration as a sex offender upon a conviction of a listed offense or a conviction for an attempt to commit a listed offense. There are currently over 40 registerable offenses in New York State.

Prior to today's agreement, on January 21, 2006, Level 1 and Level 2 sex offenders who have been on the New York State Sex Offender Registry for ten years would no longer be listed, and in 2009, certain Level 3 sex offenders would have the ability to petition to have their name taken off of the registry.

The new law requires that Level 3 sex offenders remain on the Sex Offender Registry for life, Level 2 offenders remain on Registry for life, but could petition a court to be removed from the Registry after 30 years; and Level 1 offenders would be required to remain on the Registry for 20 years.

Currently, although New Yorkers can obtain information regarding Level 3 sex offenders from the Internet and information regarding Level 2 and Level 3 offenders from local law enforcement agencies, information about Level 1 sex offenders can only be obtained by calling the Sex Offender Registry Information line, (800) 262-3257. A caller to that line must provide one of four identifiers for the individual they are inquiring about: drivers license number, social security number, date of birth or exact address. After providing this information callers can verify if an individual is a registered sex offender. No further information can be provided about a Level 1 sex offender. If the offender is a Level 2, or a Level 3 sex offender, more information including the crime of conviction, modus of operation and type of victim targeted will be disclosed. In the case of a Level 2 sex offender, the caller is given the offender's approximate address based on the offender's zip code. For Level 3 sex offenders, the exact address will be provided. Additionally, for Level 3 offenders, all information is available on the Sex Offender Subdirectory Search at www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us.

The Sex Offender Registration Act has four distinct procedures for community notification. First, local law enforcement agencies are notified whenever a sex offender moves into their jurisdiction and may, in turn, notify the community as allowed by the Act. Additionally, DCJS maintains official information on the highest risk, Level 3, sex offenders on its website. DCJS also maintains a Sex Offender Registry Information Line (1-800-262-3257) and produces a Subdirectory of Level 3 Sex Offenders, which is maintained at local police agencies.

There are currently over 21,000 convicted sex offenders listed on the Registry. To access information on the State's Sex Offender Registry, visit the DCJS website at www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us.