Court ruling on sex offenders prompts lawmakers to act
A controversial ruling by the New York State Court of Appeals striking down sex offender residency laws in local municipalities has spurred a flurry of activity in the state legislature, as lawmakers hunt for ways to restrict the movements of the ex-cons.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn) and Assemblymember Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside) have sponsored bills in their respective legislative houses that would prohibit all Level One, Two and Three sex offenders in the state living within 1,000 feet of a school.
The two lawmakers are imploring their colleagues to vote for the bills. “I urge my colleagues to pass this bill as soon as possible and the governor to sign it,” Golden said in a statement.
There are state laws banning Level Three sex offenders (those who served time for rape and other violent sex crimes) from living near schools after they get out of jail, but there is no law to placing such restrictions on Level Two or Level One offenders, according to Raymond Riley, a spokesman for Golden. The proposed legislation “would cover all levels of sex crimes,” Riley told the Brooklyn Eagle in an email.
On Feb.17, the state’s highest court struck down a Nassau County regulation banning sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a school. In its unanimous decision, the court ruled that state laws on sex offenders supersede all local laws and that localities cannot enact sex offender restrictions on their own.
The case involved a 2006 law in Nassau County that was challenged in court by a Level One offender who had been convicted of possession of child pornography. The defendant served 22 months in prison and was released. He went to court to challenge the Nassau County law that prohibited him from living near a school.
The Albany Times Union reported that at least 117 other municipalities across the state had similar laws to keep sex offenders from living close to schools, parks, playgrounds, daycare centers and other places where children gather.
The court’s ruling puts those local laws in jeopardy.
Golden said the state legislature has to act, and act fast, to safeguard children. “When talking about the safety and security of the children of New York, we cannot waste a minute in passing this vital piece of legislation,” he said. “While I strongly disagree with the court’s ruling and the short term ramifications it has across our great state, it emphasizes the need to pass our legislation and keep registered sex offenders away from our schools.”
“In light of the court’s ruling, it is imperative that the legislature pass our bill, which would ban all sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a school,” Braunstein said. “Municipalities around the state have enacted laws against sex offenders to protect our children, and the court’s decision potentially places children around the state at risk from convicted sex offenders. It is clear that the state must step in and act now to ensure the safety of students throughout New York.”
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