Monday, September 18, 2006

Major New Sex Offense Bill

Congress recently passed, and the President signed, "The Adam Walsh* Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006." Here are some highlights of the Act, which has as its primary purpose the development of state sex offender registries and a federal database to collect the information therein. All section references are to the Act, not the US Code:

  • Section 141 creates a new offense, failing to register as a sex offender, at 18 USC 2250. The penalizes a person who "knowingly fails to register or update a registration as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act" where that person has either (a) been convicted of certain sexual offenses in federal court or (b) "travels in interstate or foreign commerce, or enters or leave, or resides in, Indian country." Penalties for conviction are 0-10 years in prison or 5-30 years if the person commits a crime of violence.
  • Section 141 also increases the punishment in false statement cases (18 USC 1001) to 8 years if the matter at issue related to a specifically listed federal sex offense.
  • Section 141 also makes changes to supervised release terms for sex offenses. First, it requires the supervised release term in sex offense cases to be at least 5 years long (up to life). Second, if a person on SR is supposed to be a registered sex offender and he commits a crime that is one of the listed federal offenses, the court is required to revoke his term of supervised release and imposed a minimum sentence of 5 years, regardless of other limitations on imprisonment for SR violations.
  • Section 201 specifically provides a sentence of 0-20 years in prison for distribution of "date rape drugs" (as defined by the Act) over the Internet.
  • Section 202 sets forth mandatory minimum sentences for persons "convicted of a Federal offense that is a crime of violence" against a minor. If the crime of violence is murder, the minimum is 30 years; kidnapping or maiming receives a 25-year minimum; any other crime of violence that involves serious bodily injury or a dangerous weapon produces a 10-year minimum. These mandatories apply unless greater mandatory minimums are provided elsewhere.
  • Section 203 increases the penalty for violations of 18 USC 2422(b) (coercion and enticement) to 10 years to life in prison.
  • Section 204 increases the penalty for violations of 18 USC 2423(a) (child prostitution) to 10 years to life in prison.
  • Section 205 changes the penalty for violations of 18 USC 2242 (sexual abuse) from 0-20 years to "any term of years or for life."
  • Section 206 creates a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison for violations of 18 USC 2241(c) (sexual abuse). Is also creates a 30-year mandatory minimum for violations of 18 USC 2251(e) where death results.
  • Section 210 allows a district court to impose as a condition of supervised release that a registered sex offender submit to warrantless searches by law enforcement or probation officers "at any time." However, such searches still require "reasonable suspicion concerning a violation of a condition of supervised release or unlawful conduct." Whether that matters under Samson, anyway, is unknown.
  • Section 213 expands federal jurisdiction for kidnapping offenses.
  • Section 214 directs a committee of the Judicial Conference to review whether the "marital communication and adverse spousal privileges" should be abolished in child abuse, spousal abuse, or child custody cases.
  • Section 216 amends the Bail Reform Act by adding to the cases in which the Government may seek detention "any felony that is not otherwise a crime of violence that involves a minor victim or involves the possession of a firearm or destructive device, or any other dangerous weapon . . .."
  • Section 504 regulates the reproduction of child porn for discovery purposes.
  • Section 701 creates the offense of a "child exploitation enterprise" and provides a 20-life penalty for those engaged in such enterprises.
  • Section 702 provides a 10-year mandatory minimum, to be imposed consecutively to any other penalty, in cases where a person required to register under the Act commits one of the listed federal sex offenses.
In addition, Section 704(b) provides for an increase of "not less than 200 the number of attorneys in the United States Attorneys' Offices" who shall be assigned to prosecute "offenses relating to the sexual exploitation of children.

*Adam Walsh was the son of John Walsh, of America's Most Wanted fame, whose abduction led to the show.

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