Bill limits bail release of sex offenders
Bill helps victims, restricts bail release of sex offenders
State Sen. Dean Martin, R-Phoenix, (right) announces “Chris’ Law – Victims’ Protection Act” along with the bill’s creator, 13-year-old Chris Cottrell. Chris’ Law addresses sexual predators.
A new bill called "Chris' Law – Victims' Protection Act" that will restrict bail release for sexual offenders was introduced Wednesday by Sen. Dean Martin, R-Phoenix.
Chris Cottrell, a 13-year-old Phoenix pupil who brought the idea forward to the state Legislature, accompanied Martin at the state Capitol for the announcement of the bill, which will appear as a referendum on November's ballot.
Cottrell formulated Chris' Law while working on TeenPact, a student group that participates in a mock legislature. Cottrell contacted Martin with the support of his father and because of a personal family experience, he said.
"A member of my family is a victim," said Cottrell, who is originally from Texas. "The offender is walking around scot-free in Texas with the opportunity to do it to anyone if he wants to."
Voters will be asked to approve a change in the Arizona Constitution that adds rapists and child molesters to bail restrictions that are now in place for murderers.
Currently, sexual offenders can be released after posting 10 percent of the bail. Many cases involve repeat offenders who are released for only a few hundred dollars, Martin said.
Chris' Law intends to prohibit sexual predators from obtaining bail while on appeal, to require electronic monitoring to keep predators away from school areas, and to require the courts to impose a minimum cash or other security deposit for release.
The bill will also strengthen victims' rights by giving them and their families greater voices and protections, Martin said.
"With this bill, we will be able to have victims of sex crimes be heard," he said. "We don't want offenders to get off easy."
In the 1999-2000 fiscal year, the latest year numbers were available, there were 494 adult sexual offenders arrested in Maricopa County. Of those, 383 arrests were for child molestation, and 111 arrests were for sexual assault. Among juveniles, there were 75 child molestation arrests and four sexual assault arrests. The proposed bill aims to reduce the number of offenders released in the state.
Former Congressman Matt Salmon is an advocate for the bill and has also been closely affected by a friend's rape.
"Once a pedophile, always a pedophile," he said. "Never give them a second chance."
"It's crazy," Salmon said regarding the release of sexual predators. "The catch and release policy is better suited for the Fish and Game Department, not for our judges."
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