Idaho could change its plan for managing sex offenders that includes requiring offenders to report more information, expanding a state board that oversees sex offenders, and ditching part of the state’s sex offender law that is unconstitutional.
Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, said the package of changes is a major piece of legislation that he thinks will get through the Idaho Legislature this year. Darrington chairs the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, which approved introducing the plan.
The change comes in response to an Idaho Supreme Court case in 2009 that ruled the state’s “violent sexual predator” designation, which required some offenders to check in with law enforcement more frequently, violated the offender’s constitutional rights. Offenders couldn’t receive information on why they were called violent predators, which went against their right to due process.
Darrington, who helped craft that sex offender law in 1998, said the high court ruling wasn’t a surprise, and that Idaho needs to find a new way to manage its sex offenders. Since the court ruling, there have been no new violent sexual predators designated. Currently, 51 sex offenders in Idaho are labeled violent, out of several thousand total registered offenders.
Under the new plan, the violent sexual predator designation disappears and the Sex Offender Classification Board would be double in size from four members to eight, increase its responsibilities, and be renamed the Sex Offender Management Board. Also, all registered offenders would have shorter deadlines for registering and reporting changes in personal information.
The package of changes was introduced Monday by Steve Bywater in the attorney general’s office and a member of the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission (ICJC), which put together the legislation. Bywater said that among the new reporting requirements for all sex offenders would be reporting the car they drive and any Internet markers, including their e-mail address or Facebook account.
Bywater also said offenders ready to leave a state prison would now need to report their address before they leave. They’d also need to report a change of address within two days. The public can search some of the reported information on an Idaho State Police website.
The reporting changes would bring Idaho closer into compliance with the federal sex offender law, though Bywater said the ICJC doesn’t recommend fully complying with that plan. He did say the legislation would allow for better state supervision of sex offenders.
The change would cost $70,000, due to the expansion of the board. In addition to coming up with a new way to deal with violent offenders or those at risk of repeating a sex crime, the board would also create new state standards for treating and evaluating offenders, including the use of polygraph tests and psychosexual evaluations, when necessary.
Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, a member of ICJC, supports the plan, saying Idaho needs a new way to identify people who are dangerous. Bock serves on Darrington’s committee, which unanimously agreed to hold a hearing on the legislation.