A San Diego legislator has introduced a bill that would significantly strengthen penalties for sex crimes against children.
Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (R-75th) unveiled the specific policies Monday that comprise Chelsea's Law (Assembly Bill 1844).
In proposing the bill, Fletcher was joined by law enforcement leaders, crime victim advocates and a bipartisan coalition of elected officials as they outlined the details of their effort to reconstitute California's sex offender laws.
They were joined by Kelly and Brent King, whose daughter Chelsea was assaulted and murdered by a registered sex offender.
"We are standing here today because our precious daughter Chelsea has inspired us, and thousands of others, to galvanize together to create a law that denies a convicted sexual predator a second chance to harm or take the life of another child," said Kelly King. "Chelsea is our beacon."
Chelsea's Law will increase penalties for sex crimes against children, lengthen the time sex offenders remain on parole with GPS monitoring and establish "safe zones" to limit where these offenders can spend their time.
"It is the first requirement of the people we elect to do everything within their power to ensure safe communities for our citizens," said Brent King. "Chelsea's Law is now in their hands, and by its enactment they will give law enforcement a tool with teeth to more effectively protect our children."
For the past six weeks since Chelsea's death, the Kings and Assemblyman Fletcher have worked with a broad coalition of stakeholders to conduct a thorough review of California's sex offender laws. Additionally, two separate legislative hearings to review the California Department of Corrections' parole system were held and a community forum in San Diego was attended by more than 800 people to offer public input about the direction of Chelsea's Law.
"Chelsea's Law will strengthen protections for our children," Fletcher said. "Violent sexual predators that prey upon children cannot be rehabilitated and with Chelsea's Law, we will have a criminal justice system that reflects this reality."
Chelsea's Law, as proposed, establishes the penalty of a life sentence without the possibility of parole for "Forcible Sex Crimes" against children under age 18 when aggravating circumstances exist.
If the Child is 13 and younger, the new penalty will be life without the possibility of parole for any Forcible Sex Crime that also includes one of the following major aggravating circumstances: Physical injury resulting in traumatic condition; kidnapping that substantially increases risk of harm to the victim; burglary with intent to commit sexual offense; mayhem or torture of the victim, or previous forcible sex offense conviction.
If the child is 14-17, the new penalty would be life without the possibility of parole for any "Forcible Sex Crimes."
Chelsea's Law authors do not believe that current prison terms for Forcible Sex Crimes against children where no aggravating circumstances exist are proportional to the crime.
Chelsea's Law seeks to increase those prison sentences by taking typical penalties of 3, 6 or 8 years up to 6, 12 or 16 years for Forcible Sex Crimes against children under 14 and 6, 9 and 11 years for children aged 14 to 17. Chelsea's Law would not change current law where, depending on the crime and the age of the victim, the penalty for a Forcible Sex Crime without aggravating circumstances is already 25 years to life or 15 years to life.
Under Chelsea's Law, it would become a misdemeanor and a parole violation if a registered sex offender enters a park where children regularly gather without receiving prior park administrator or parole agent approval.
It would also institute two primary changes to existing parole statutes. First, parole following a prison term for a Forcible Sex Crime, regardless of the age of the victim, is increased from 5 to 10 years. Second, parole following a prison term for a Forcible Sex Crime against a child under 14 is increased to lifetime parole, resulting in lifetime GPS monitoring of these more violent sex offenders.
"Our children deserve nothing less than absolute protection from violent sex offenders," Fletcher said. "The state's top priority must be public safety and I'm confident that my colleagues will join the effort to support Chelsea's Law and protect our children."
Chelsea's Law will be presented in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 20. Pending its passage, the Assembly Appropriations Committee will consider the bill in May.