Maryland Moves to Crack Down on Sex Offenders

New laws proposed; more muscle for existing law

Friday, Mar 19, 2010  |  Updated 5:30 PM EDT
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Maryland Moves to Crack Down on Sex Offenders

AP

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Stronger measures against sex offenders are advancing in the Maryland General Assembly.

In the House of Delegates, members gave preliminary approval Friday to a bill that would strengthen penalties established in 2006 under Jessica's Law. The bill, sponsored by Republican Delegates Steven Schuh and Michael Smigiel, creates a mandatory 15-year prison sentence (instead of five years) for people who commit a second-degree sex offense or rape against a child under 13.

Jessica’s Law is named for Jessica Lunsford, the Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped and murdered five years ago by a convicted sex offender. Her father, Mark Lunsford, went to Annapolis this week to urge lawmakers to toughen laws against sexual predators.

The House on Friday also passed a bill backed by Gov. Martin O'Malley creating lifetime supervision of serious and repeat sex offenders. The bill also extends the time before an offender can request to be released from the monitoring from three to five years.

On the Senate side Friday, members unanimously approved a bill to make it easier for citizens to raise concerns about parents who allow their children to be in close proximity to sexual predators. The measure authorizes people to report parents, guardians and
caregivers suspected of letting kids live with or be in the regular presence of child sex offenders. Local authorities would be required to investigate the situation if they believe the child to be at substantial risk of abuse.
 
The votes comes months after the highly publicized slaying of a Salisbury girl. Authorities allege 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell was killed by a registered sex offender who is a former boyfriend of her aunt and legal guardian. The bill now goes to the House. 

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