Gov. Robert Bentley recently signed legislation making Alabama’s sex offender registration laws tougher.

The new legislation, which goes into effect July 1, requires registered sex offenders to check in with local law enforcement quarterly while applying tighter monitoring requirements.

The old law required registered sex offenders to check bi-annually.

“This is going to create a significant increase on workload and cost,” Cullman County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy Max Bartlett said. “But anytime you can keep better track of the sex offenders in the county, you’re better off. Our goal, and the legislators’, is to keep the kids and people out here safe.”

The new law, which is 96 pages long, not only changes how law enforcement agencies monitor the movement of sex offenders, but it also applies stiffer penalties — a felony charge — to those who fail to comply.

It also applies hefty penalties on those help hide or unlawfully employ registered sex offenders.

“It’s now a Class C felony for aiding and abetting a sex offender,” said Capt. Edward Potter of the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office. “Also, if a daycare or someone hires a sex offender to work near children, that person will also receive a Class C felony.”

Another significant change to the law is how sex offenders convicted in other states will be labeled when registering in Alabama.

According to the new law, if a registered offender was charged with a sex crime classified as a felony in another state, they will have to register as a felon in Alabama.

“We’ve had a problem in the past with sex offenders from other states coming into the state with what’s sexual misconduct here, but it’s something else over there,” Bartlett said. “Now they fall under our guidelines. If it’s a felony there, it’s a felony here.”

A few other significant changes to the sex offender law include:

  • Registered sex offenders who are homeless are required to check in once a week.
  • Those who do day labor must provide local law enforcement with details about where and when they will be working each day.
  • Sex offenders will have to pay a $10 fee every time they register. That same fee will also be charged for every move.
  • A travel permit is required through local law enforcement if a sex offender plans to be away from their residence for more than three days or if they plan to travel outside the area.
  • Those sex offenders who have been classified as sexual predators or convicted of sexually violent crimes will be required to wear a Global Positioning System (GPS) for 10 years, at their own expense.
  • Some youthful offenders and juveniles, those charged with more serious sex crimes, will have to register for a lifetime instead of 10 years.

“I think this is to try and close some of the loopholes we’ve had in the past,” Cullman County Sheriff’s Office deputy Evlayline Hadley said. “And even though this will be more of a workload, this will help us do a better job of keeping track of sex offenders.

“When they only had to register bi-annually, they could move half a dozen times in six months and it’s hard to track them down. This should offset that some.”

According to the Cullman County sex offender registry, there are currently 155 registered sex offenders in Cullman County.

 

* Justin Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 257 or by email at jgraves@cullmantimes.com.

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