ACT NO. 192
Crimes; sex offenders
This act contains a significant number of measures intended to improve investigation, prevention, sentencing, and treatment with respect to crimes of sexual violence.
The act directs the antiviolence partnership at the University of Vermont to convene an education task force on sexual violence prevention. Special investigative units, which specialize in investigating sex crimes, are expanded so that access to them is available in all regions of Vermont.
The act establishes a sentencing system, called "indeterminate lifetime sentencing," which mandates lifetime maximum sentences for most sex offenders. For most offenses, minimum sentences are not mandated and will therefore vary according to the circumstances associated with the crime. This means that, after the offender's release, he or she will continue to be under the supervision of the department of corrections for life and will be subject to the underlying lifetime maximum term of incarceration if he or she re-offends or violates the terms of probation. Additionally, the offender must complete sex offender treatment and programming in order to be eligible for release.
For the crime of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, the act establishes a presumptive minimum sentence of five years of incarceration for a second offense and ten years of incarceration for a third or subsequent offense. The presumptive minimum must be served unless the judge makes written findings that a lesser sentence will serve the interests of justice and public safety, in which case the judge may downward depart to a lesser term of incarceration.
For the crime of aggravated sexual assault, the act establishes a presumptive minimum sentence of ten years of incarceration and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years of incarceration. The ten-year presumptive minimum must be served unless the judge makes written findings that a lesser sentence will serve the interests of justice and public safety. The judge may downward depart if these findings are made, but still must impose a sentence of at least five years of incarceration.
The act creates an exception, known as an "age gap," to some sexual offenses when both parties have consented to the sexual conduct and one of the parties is a minor. Under the age gap exception, no crime is committed if a person is charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, luring a child, or statutory rape, and the person is less than 19 years old, the child is at least 15 years old, and the conduct is consensual.
The act makes a number of changes to the sex offender registry. The act permits arrest without a warrant for failure to comply with registry requirements, and increases the penalties for knowingly failing to comply for more than five consecutive days. Release of offender addresses is permitted if the requestor can articulate a concern regarding the requestor's personal safety or the safety of another. High risk offenders are required to report to the department of corrections within 36 hours of any change of address. With respect to offenders on the internet registry, the act permits law enforcement to notify the community about the offender either on its own initiative ("active notification") or in response to a request for information ("passive notification") so long as written protocols developed by law enforcement governing the manner and circumstances of the release are followed. With respect to offenders not on the internet registry, the act permits active community notification only if there is a compelling risk to public safety, the department of corrections and the Vermont crime information center have been consulted, and written protocols are followed.
The act adds all recidivist sex offenders to the internet sex offender registry, and adds offenders who commit lewd and lascivious conduct with a child to the registry if the offender is determined by the department of corrections to be high risk. The act also removes the "log-in requirement," so that members of the public who access the internet registry do not have to register or provide identifying information.
The act requires the department of corrections to conduct pre-sentence investigations, which may include psychosexual evaluations, for all sex offenders, and to develop a release plan and a community reentry support team for all high-risk sex offenders. The department is also required, prior to the release of a sex offender, to give careful consideration to the proximity of the offender's residence to any risk group associated with the offender. The act establishes term probation for nonviolent offenders, which means the term of probation for a nonviolent offender may not generally exceed the statutory maximum term of imprisonment for the offense, and expands the global positioning system monitoring pilot program to accommodate 80 more offenders.
The act also establishes the Vermont Sentencing Commission to oversee criminal sentencing practices, reduce geographical disparities in sentencing, review developments in criminal law, and make recommendations to the general assembly.
Effective Date: May 26, 2006
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street