Delegates' bill triples jail time for sex offenders

Other proposed laws would further restrict convicted child predators

urge others to report abuse

March 20, 2010|By Julie Bykowicz |

Convicted child predators would face at least 15 years in prison without the possibility of parole under a new measure advanced Friday by the Maryland House of Delegates.

The preliminary approval came as delegates gave their final OK to two other sex offender measures: eliminating good-time prison credits and requiring lifetime supervision for violent and repeat offenders.

Lawmakers have been reviewing sex offender laws this year in part as a response to the December killing of 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell on the Eastern Shore. Thomas J. Leggs Jr., a registered sex offender, is charged with capital murder in the case.

On Friday, the Senate voted unanimously to require authorities to investigate an individual's suspicion that a parent or guardian is allowing his or her children to spend time with a sex offender. The bill, which aims to encourage neighbors and friends to report abuse cases, is a direct response to Sarah Foxwell's death. The girl's custodial aunt had been dating Leggs.

That measure must be approved by the House.

Under the legislation approved preliminarily by delegates Friday, anyone convicted of second-degree rape or a second-degree sex offense of a child younger than 13 would be subject to a mandatory prison term of 15 years without parole, more than a threefold increase from the current penalty of five years with the possibility of parole.

The extended sentence for child predators and a plan to provide more information on the state's publicly available sex offender registry will come to the House of Delegates for a final vote next week.

Several of the House bills could face a tough battle in the Senate, which must approve them before April 12 if they are to become law. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which heard testimony this week on sex offender reforms, frequently rejects mandatory prison sentences and restrictions of good-time credits.

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