Monday, February 18, 2008

Big Brother is watching

Another unfunded mandate which may go too far in its intent.

No surprise there, it's from the Feds.

Some say sex offense law goes too far
Lisa Sandberg: Express-News

AUSTIN — Texas officials may soon ignore a federal sex offender mandate, which would require some juveniles as young as 14 to register in a national offender Web site, saying the new law is too harsh.

A federal community notification act passed by Congress and signed by President Bush is so sweeping it is giving pause even to those who've traditionally pushed for greater public sex offender disclosure.

Scores of prosecutors, victims rights advocates and normally get-tough lawmakers say provisions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 are both draconian and costly — and may end up harming the very victims they're supposed to protect.

"We think our laws are strong enough," said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, a leading advocate of sex offender registration laws in Texas.

"When the pendulum swings, it tends to swing pretty hard," said Bill Hawkins, chief of the juvenile division of the Harris County District Attorney's Office. "There are an awful lot of sexual assault cases and then there are kids who engage in sex at an early age. The Adam Walsh Act wants to put them all together."

The federal law, named for the 6-year-old son, murdered in 1981, of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh, calls for a national sex offender registry and requires all states to be part of it. It makes no exception for many juvenile offenders, putting even those who engage in consensual sex with kids younger than 13 in the same category — and on the same registry — as armed adult rapists and pedophiles, in some instances for life.

States have until July 2009 to enact the new law's provisions or lose millions of dollars in federal criminal justice funds. The U.S. Justice Department is expected to issue final guidelines this spring.