KATC Investigates

May 23, 2013 11:30 PM by Erin Steuber

It's Legal for Some Sex Offenders to Live Near Schools: Why It's Legal

Just 7 years ago there were no restrictions on where sex offenders could live when it comes to schools or day care centers.

But that all changed in August 2006. That's when the Louisiana Legislature passed a law banning those convicted of sex crimes against children under the age of 13 from living within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center. But despite that, some convicted of those crimes are doing just that.

In Lafayette Parish, there are 262 registered sex offenders, 65 currently living within 1,000 feet of schools or daycares, and the majority of them were charged with crimes against juveniles; from molestation to computer aided solicitation to child porn. Juvenile, as defined in the state of Louisiana, are under the age of 17.

"These people who have committed those crimes can not live within 1,000 feet of the schools or day care centers," said Captain Kip Judice of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office.

But there are 65 offenders doing just that, because they were grand-fathered in. For instance, 610 feet from Lafayette's St. Genevieve School lives a Tier 3 sex offender, charged in a case involving a child in Kansas. He's allowed to live there because he was tried, and served his time, before August, 2006 when the location restrictions went into effect in Louisiana. The loophole: The law only applies to offenders who were in jail at the time it passed, or convicted afterwards.

"Though there are some variations, and it sounds like a gumbo kind of a dish, it's pretty specific when you have the offender sitting across the table from you," said Judice. "You can find out what that offense was, where he intends to live, where his victim lives, where his previous victim lives. And if he's a tier 3 having offended, under 13 years of age, where are schools, daycare centers, etc. established."

Among the 65 offenders, 10 are Tier 3 offenders. Those offenders have typically committed the most violent crimes, like aggravated indecent solicitation of a child.

"This person commits a Tier 3 offense, he'll have to register the rest of his life," said Judice. "His probation or parole may only be for 5 years, so for those five years he's gotta adhere to all these other restrictions that this parole officer put on him. But once his parole is completed then he only has to comply with Louisiana state law with regards to registering as a sex offender."

There's even more gray area. Two supreme court cases, (Smith vs. Doe/ Louisiana vs. Rudy Trosclair) at the federal and state level, suggest laws concerning sex offenders are retroactive. But according to the State Department of Corrections, the enforcement of sex offender restrictions falls on each parish because sometimes local laws can be more restrictive than state laws. But as part of anyone's registration as a sex offender, a letter is sent out to alert those in the neighborhood.

"The purpose of that component of the law is to arm the neighborhood, and those residents in those areas. We have a person that has committed a crime in the past, it is not uncommon for a sex offender to re-offend," said Judice.

To ensure sex offenders continue following the law, compliance officers randomly check in on each offender at least twice a year.

It's easy to search for sex offenders, where you live. Head over to the Louisiana State Police website., and click on the sex offender registry tab. There you can search for offenders within miles of your home address.

 

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