Sex offender legislation introduced in R.I.

Sex offender legislation introduced in R.I.


PROVIDENCE — Legislation to enact a sexual offender registration and community notification act would shift offender registry responsibility to the Rhode Island State Police and introduce an offense-based tier system.

“As long as there is one sex offender out there that we cannot account for, there is the potential for great harm, the potential for another victim,” said Representative Peter G. Palumbo, D-Cranston, sponsor of the bill.

Palumbo, in conjunction with Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin’s office, moved to strike existing language in state law and replace it with a statute he says will provide greater protection to Rhode Islanders. Westerly’s Rep. Samuel A Azzinaro is co-sponsor of the legislation.

The act would:

• Provide for the registration and notification of those adults adjudicated for a sex offense and those juveniles adjudicated as an adult for a sex offense.

• Recodify Department of Public Safety (State Police) control of the sex offender registry and transfers control of the sex offender website from the Parole Board’s Sex Offender Community Notification Unit to the Rhode Island State Police.

• Provide retroactive registration for those adjudicated of sex offenses, but not currently required to register, under the following circumstances: the offender is currently in the criminal justice system and not subject to preexisting sex offender registration requirements, and the offender is already subject to preexisting sex offender registration requirements.

• Require offenders to provide the following information for the registry: name, date of birth, Social Security number, current digitized photograph, accurate physical description, driver’s license, identification card, passport, immigration documents, residence address, telephone numbers, Internet identifiers, vehicle information, employment information, school information, criminal history, fingerprints and DNA.

• Provide a new mechanism for tiering sex offenders. Currently, tiers are determined by a risk assessment completed by the Sex Offender Board of Review. The tier classification can be appealed to Superior Court for reclassification. The new act would provide for offense-based classification, with the offender’s tier level determined by the severity of the offense.

• Amends community notification of sex offenders. Currently, notification is achieved by local police departments and the Parole Board website. This act would streamline notification by making it web-based and automated, with the Department of Public Safety maintaining a notification website with search capabilities and a function that enables the general public to receive email notification when a sex offender commences residence, employment, or school attendance within the state, a specified zip code, or a certain geographic radius.

“Under current law, it is the duty of (the) local law enforcement agency, the police department of a city or town in which the offender resides, to provide notification to another community if the offender moves,” Palumbo said. “This makes for a very disjointed method of notification, and requires local police to spend time on what are essentially clerical matters when they should be spending that time protecting their community.

By making one central agency — the State Police — responsible for this process will free up local law enforcement resources and save communities money.”

The bill being introduced is identical to the legislation he sponsored last year, passed by the House of Representatives but not taken up by the Senate.

— A.J. Algier

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