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Acting DA Singas Urges Thorough Review of State’s Sex Offender Restrictions

LongIsland.com

Highlights need to do comprehensive statewide study, & engage multiple stakeholders, to enact strongest possible law that is effective & practical to enforce.

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Long Island, NY - February 24, 2015 - Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, in a letter sent to legislative leaders today, urged the need for a thorough and comprehensive review as lawmakers consider proposals to strengthen State law intended to protect communities from registered sex offenders.

The proposals are being discussed in Albany after the Court of Appeals this week effectively struck down the myriad local laws that have been enacted around New York State, including in Nassau County, which restricted the movements of registered sex offenders with relation to places where children congregate.

“As a career prosecutor with a background in Special Victims cases, and as a mother myself,” Acting DA Singas states in her letter, “I believe that this moment is an opportunity to conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of all the local laws that have been enacted on this issue, with the goal of enacting the strongest possible State law – whether it creates one uniform practice statewide or gives individual counties the ability to set their own rules based on their own unique geographies and circumstances – to protect potential victims from registered sex offenders in a manner that is effective, practical to enforce, and constitutional.”

Acting DA Singas, who worked on domestic violence cases in the Queens District Attorney’s office before serving as the chief of the Nassau District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau from 2006 to 2011, offered to meet with legislative leaders to discuss the issue and urged them to “consider the many different ways that this issue can be addressed, and engage the many stakeholders of this issue, including law enforcement, advocacy groups and other criminal justice and public safety experts.”

The full text of the letter is below.

February 20, 2015

Hon. Dean G. Skelos
Majority Leader, New York State Senate
Legislative Office Building, Room 909
Albany, NY 12247

Hon. Carl E. Heastie
Speaker, New York State Assembly
Legislative Office Building, Room 932
Albany, NY 12248

VIA FAX

Dear Majority Leader Skelos and Speaker Heastie,

As you are well aware, this week’s Court of Appeals decision in a Nassau County case involving a registered sex offender has effectively struck down the myriad local laws that have been enacted around New York State, including in Nassau County, which restricted the movements of registered sex offenders with relation to places where children congregate.

This decision now makes New York State Penal Law, including the provisions of the Sexual Assault Reform Act, the only law relevant to the movement and residency of registered sex offenders in New York.  Under current State law, the following registered sex offenders may not, at any time, be within what’s defined as “school grounds” (broadly speaking, within 1,000 feet of a school property boundary) or “any other facility or institution primarily used for the care or treatment of persons under the age of 18”:

  • Level 3 sex offenders who are actively on probation or conditional release
  • Level 2 and Level 1 sex offenders who are actively on probation or conditional release AND whose victims were under 18 at the time of incident

I know that you and other state officials care sincerely about the safety of our children and families, and are considering how to strengthen State law on this matter so that it better reflects what has been – as evidenced by the many local laws that have been enacted – a clear desire by many New Yorkers for the law to more fully address the issue of how to protect the public from sex offenders considered to be likely to re-offend.

As a career prosecutor with a background in Special Victims cases, and as a mother myself, I believe that this moment is an opportunity to conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of all the local laws that have been enacted on this issue, with the goal of enacting the strongest possible State law – whether it creates one uniform practice statewide or gives individual counties the ability to set their own rules based on their own unique geographies and circumstances – to protect potential victims from registered sex offenders in a manner that is effective, practical to enforce, and constitutional.

There is no one specific restriction, rule or practice that will serve as a complete and comprehensive solution for keeping communities safe from re-offending sex offenders.  As you consider legislative proposals, I would urge that you consider the many different ways that this issue can be addressed, and engage the many stakeholders of this issue, including law enforcement, advocacy groups and other criminal justice and public safety experts, in order to arrive at studied and comprehensive proposals that keep our communities safe in a manner that is both effective and enforceable.

Thank you for considering my thoughts on this matter.  I’m happy to meet with you, and engage our staffs, so we can work together to make New York as safe as possible for our children and families.

Sincerely,

Madeline Singas
Acting District Attorney, Nassau County