Bill re-writes rules for sex offenders

By Melissa Correa - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Some state lawmakers are trying to re-write the rules for convicted sex offenders in Virginia, with a bill moving through the General Assembly.

Currently, Virginia sex offenders required to register on the state's database must live at least 500 feet from a school or park. But if House Bill 1004 is passed, offenders would be required to re-locate so that their residence is more than 500 feet away from daycares, public or private religious schools, public schools, bus stops, parks and playgrounds, recreation centers and public pools.

The brief text of House Bill 1004, if passed, would also re-design the sex offender registration requirements. Right now only those convicted of violent sex crimes are in the state's database. But under 1004 people convicted of sex crimes against a minor – violent or not, would also have to register.

Greg Peay and his wife, Felicia have five children and take the sex offender registry seriously. Yet, they feel the bill is too restrictive.

"They're trying to rehabilitate themselves and get back into society, but if you have them in this box, then what do you expect for them to do?" said Mrs. Peay.

Supporters of the bill say it's aimed to protect children - the most vulnerable of citizens. But critics say it may force some of the offenders to become homeless.

The legislation says violating the requirements would result in a felony charge. However, a sex offender already residing in a particular location wouldn't be in violation if one of the newly restricted properties is built after their conviction.

There are other bills aimed at sex offenders under review in the General Assembly. One house bill would clarify that sex offenders must register where they reside, even if they don't have a roof over their head.  Another would ban certain sex offenders from being within 100 feet of any children's museum. A third would add language to the law, clarifying when sex offenders are required to register.

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