2011 Legislative Preview: HB 1009

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Bill Name: AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR PUBLIC NOTIFICATION OF SEX OFFENDERS REGISTERED IN ANOTHER STATE.

Sponsors: Justin Harris (R-87), 479-871-8542, Justin.Harris@arkansashouse.org; Jon Woods (R-93), 479-200-3100, woodsforarkansas@gmail.com.

Purpose: If a registered sex offender from another state moves to Arkansas, and if that offender would be classified as a level-3 offender or higher under Arkansas law, this bill would allow a “local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction” to notify the public by posting within a three-mile radius of the offender’s Arkansas address a one-page flyer that includes the offender’s picture, his or her residential address, the state where s/he is registered, and “any other pertinent information that would contribute to the safety of the public.”  These postings are limited to a specific set of public locations, including schools and churches.

Pros for Average Arkansans:  Safety. While Ark. Code Ann. 12-12-906 requires a registered offender moving to Arkansas to register in Arkansas within three business days, there is no guarantee that s/he will actually do so, thus this statute would allow for a safety net.  Likewise, even where a person is aware s/he has to register within three business days, a holiday weekend could stretch the actual time period to as long as six calendar days.  This law would provide a safety net there as well.  Odds are it will not be terribly necessary, but I see nothing wrong with a fallback when we are talking about level-3 offenders and higher.

Cons for Average Arkansans: There exists a slight chance that a registered offender from another state might mistakenly be considered a level-3 offender in Arkansas, resulting in improper notification.  This risk seems remote, however, and the statute even allows for such a person to seek injunctive relief in the circuit court where he lives.

Recommendation: My one problem with the bill is that it is written somewhat clumsily and awkwardly.  I would like to see the phrase “the equivalent or more of at least a Level 3 offender in this state” changed to “the equivalent of a Level 3 offender or higher under Arkansas law.”

Official BHR Position: Support, with recommendations.