ACT NO. 77
Human services; child abuse registry; crimes and criminal procedure;
crime victims; sex offender registry
This act makes various changes to the procedures by which the department for children and families substantiates allegations of child abuse. The act specifies that, except for cases of sexual abuse or severe physical abuse, an individual will not be placed on the registry until he or she has either exhausted all opportunities to challenge the departments findings or waives the right to make such a challenge. It also gives the individual the opportunity to petition to have his or her name removed from the registry seven years after placement on the registry and automatically expunges any registry record of a minor who committed an act of child abuse under the age of 10 if there have been no further incidents of child abuse.
The act also requires that all prospective adoptive and foster parents undergo child abuse registry and national criminal background checks before a child is placed in the prospective parents home. The act requires the criminal background checks to be supported by fingerprints, and directs the department for children and families to bear the costs of the checks for any prospective foster parent licensed by the department.
This act directs the commissioner of the department for children and families to conduct a study that looks into further enhancement of child abuse registry laws. Specifically, the act directs the commissioner to address possible further enhancements to the procedures established in this act, to address the issues surrounding the substantiation of minors for acts of child abuse, including offering appropriate mental health services to those minors, and to address the potential need to modify the law governing access to the child abuse registry in order to better ensure the safety and well-being of children.
The act also designates certain sex offenders as noncompliant high-risk sex offenders and establishes heightened registry requirements for them. Under the act, a noncompliant high-risk sex offender is a person who is incarcerated for a sexually violent offense; is not subject to indeterminate life sentencing under current law; is designated as a high-risk sex offender by the department of corrections; and has not complied with sex offender treatment as defined by the department of corrections. Upon release from department of corrections custody, these individuals will automatically be subject to lifetime sex offender registration and community notification. Furthermore, these individuals will be required to report to the department of public safety within 15 days of their date of release and every 30 days after that. These individuals will be required to provide information about their vehicles and will be required to inform the department of public safety of any changes in name, residence, post-secondary education status, or employment. If an individual violates any of the heightened registry requirements, the individual will be subject to a prison sentence of not less than five years and a maximum of life. A sentence may be suspended in whole or in part, provided the individual is subject to intensive supervision by the department. A designated noncompliant high-risk sex offender will have the opportunity to petition once every five years to have the designation removed but will not have the right to raise the designation as a defense during a prosecution for violation of the requirements of the section.
Effective Date: On passage, except for the sections defining the contents of the child abuse registry and establishing the procedures by which individuals may challenge their placement on the child abuse registry, which take effect September 1, 2007; and Sec. 13, authorizing a new position within the office of the defender general, which takes effect July 1, 2008.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street