All low-risk sex offenders would be required to be listed on the sex offender registry under a Republican proposal that critics say is retroactive and would take away the discretion of law enforcement to review risk assessments.
Currently, the sex offender registry website must include any offender whose risk assessment has been determined to be a Level Two or Level Three, or any person assessed to be a Level One offender and whose victim was under 12 years old.
The proposed law, Senate Bill 1583 would punish Level One offenders who were 18 years or older at the time of the offense and were sentenced for a dangerous crime against children on or after August 9, 2017.
“Pedophiles, particularly those who have committed a crime against a child, know how to circumvent are not going to be forthcoming with this information. Clearly, they have no boundaries, by putting this on the sex offender website, we are giving the public accurate and truthful information,” Kayleigh Kozak, a sexual assault survivor, said at a March 7 Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye, explained that information about sex offenders is already open to the public and can be acquired at the court for a fee.
Victims and their families urged lawmakers to pass the measure.
“The sex offender registry over the last decade has been reverted from its original proper intent and now is dangerously ineffective for a certain kind of dangerous sex offender,” Dan Lundell, a parent of a victim, told the House Judiciary Committee on March 29.
Kerr explained that the risk assessment conducted to distinguish the level of sex offenders is 19 questions long, and offenders are assigned points based on their answers. She claimed that an offender acquires 0 points if they commit a sexual offense against a female, indicating that they are less of a risk to society.
“I can’t imagine being someone that’s 25 now who committed an offense that is living working, and now has to be on a website and have things mailed out about them in their neighborhood,” attorney Katherine Gipson-McLean, a member of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, said when the bill was considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 16.
She also brought up situations of things that happen in high school like a “senior simply asks a freshman to have sex with him.” Such offenses would be included in this bill.
“Deplorable things that happen in high school, that shouldn’t mean the offenders’ lives should be ruined for the rest of their lives. They should be taught,” Sen. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe, said.
SB1583 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on March 29 along party lines, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. It will proceed next to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.