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Some of new sex-offender law applies only to those on supervision

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

New legislation touted as strengthening Nevada’s sex-offender laws by preventing the most dangerous offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and bus stops, will only affect a small portion of the 175 Tier 3 offenders in the state.

According to a news release from Gov. Jim Gibbons, Senate Bill 471 was an attempt to close loopholes in current sex-offender legislation and to tighten the reins on high-level sex offenders.

But a closer look at the law reveals in its wording that the monitoring and restrictions on where offenders can live will only affect the 23 offenders being supervised by the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation. According to numbers from the Central Repository for Nevada Records of Criminal History, 40 others, deemed by the state as most likely to reoffend, are incarcerated, leaving 112 with no additional supervision or restrictions.

The law creates, what Gibbons said in a press release were, “safety zones prohibiting Tier 3 offenders from living near or being in places that are frequently visited by children,” such as schools, bus stops, day care centers, video arcades, movies theaters and athletic fields.

The distance requirements were originally in another bill pushed by Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas.

However, according to the final draft of the legislation, only sex offenders on parole, probation, lifetime supervision or a suspended sentence are prevented from living within 1,000 feet of places frequented by children. Parole and probation officers will now have the discretion to order a supervised Tier 3 offender to wear a global positioning anklet that can monitor their whereabouts at all times.

“We really looked at the bill, and in reality what we are looking at are people under our supervision,” said Mark Woods, Division of Parole and Probation.

Woods said parole and probation officers would enforce a distance requirement on their own despite there being no law against where supervised offenders could live.

Titus could not be reached Friday, but last week left a voicemail message in which she said, “That is not accurate. (This bill) was drafted so that any Tier 3 sex offender is prohibited from living or loitering within those distances. We picked Tier 3 because that’s the most serious. It’s not just those under current supervision, or surveillance. It’s all of them. That’s the way it was intended, and that’s the way I understand it to be interpreted.”

But there’s little room to interpret the bill any other way than that it only affects offenders on state supervision, said Risa Lang, chief deputy Legislative Counsel.

“When I look at it, it looks like you need to have the three things for this restriction to apply – it says you have to be a Tier 3 offender and either under probation, suspended sentence, parole or lifetime supervision and have committed an offense against a child under the age of 14,” Lang said.

Other parts of the new law do not have such conditions specifying to whom they apply. For example, all incarcerated sex offenders are now required to register prior to their release from prison, as opposed to registering within 48 hours of their release.

The law makes it mandatory that those convicted of sex offenses out of state must surrender their DNA as a condition of living in Nevada, and it increases the minimum sentence for certain sexual offenses committed against children.

Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.