– ETHAN WILENSKY- LANFORD

Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA – The House voted Tuesday to allow some people convicted of a single sex offense more than a decade ago to request removal from the state’s sex offender registry.

The bill, L.D. 1822, reflects a December Maine Supreme Court opinion that forcing some offenders to register and provide their address to police violates the Maine and U.S. constitutions by punishing someone twice for the same offense.

The first sex offender registry in Maine was created in 1992. More crimes requiring registration were added during the 1990s. A 1999 law required convicts to notify police of their addresses annually or every three months, depending on the offense.

A 2001 change made the 1999 law retroactive, applying to anyone convicted of certain sex offenses after 1992. The so-called “look-back” mechanism was extended to 1982 in 2005.

Four years later, lawmakers passed a law allowing certain offenders to apply for a waiver of the registration requirement. The change applied to offenders with no more than one conviction between 1982 and 1992 and no subsequent felony or sex offense convictions. As of January 2010, about 430 of the 3,200 registrants eligible to apply had done so — about 175 waivers were granted, according to Rep. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, co-chairwoman of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

The new bill would expand the waiver-request eligibility to offenders with a single conviction between 1992 and 1999 and no other sex offense or felony.

The bill comes following the arrest earlier this month of a convicted sex offender who had successfully applied last fall for a waiver of the registration requirement.

Larry L. Smart, 66, of Mexico is charged with possession of child pornography.

In 1988, he was convicted in Oxford County Superior Court of gross sexual misconduct involving a child under the age of 14. Smart served six years in prison and six years of probation.

Authorities believe he is the only person to be charged as a repeat offender after being removed from the registry.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee grappled in recent months with how to assess the reoffending risk.

“There are some people who we need to know where they are all the time, and there are some people who will never be a threat to us,” Haskell said.

An assessment component could not be added to the bill, Haskell said, because it would cost too much.

Haskell said she plans to introduce a bill to modernize the state’s sex offender registry and notification system next year.

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Ethan Wilensky-Lanford can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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