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SENATE PROPOSAL OF AMENDMENT 2007-2008

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H.148

 

     An act relating to the child abuse registry

     The Senate proposes to the House to amend the bill by striking out all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Sec. 1.  33 V.S.A. chapter 49, subchapter 2 is amended to read:

Subchapter 2.  Reporting Abuse of Children

* * *

§ 4912.  DEFINITIONS

As used in this subchapter:

(1)  “Child” means an individual under the age of majority.

(2)  An “abused or neglected child” means a child whose physical health, psychological growth and development or welfare is harmed or is at substantial risk of harm by the acts or omissions of his or her parent or other person responsible for the child’s welfare.  An “abused or neglected child” also means a child who is sexually abused or at substantial risk of sexual abuse by any person.

(3)  “Harm” can occur by:

(A)  Physical injury or emotional maltreatment;

(B)  Failure to supply the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, or health care.  For the purposes of this subchapter, “adequate health care” includes any medical or nonmedical remedial health care permitted or authorized under state law.  Notwithstanding that a child might be found to be without proper parental care under chapter 55 of Title 33, a parent or other person responsible for a child’s care legitimately practicing his or her religious beliefs who thereby does not provide specified medical treatment for a child shall not be considered neglectful for that reason alone; or

(C)  Abandonment of the child.

(4)  “Risk of harm” means a significant danger that a child will suffer serious harm other than by accidental means, which harm would be likely to cause physical injury, neglect, emotional maltreatment or sexual abuse.

(5)  “A person responsible for a child’s welfare” includes the child’s parent; guardian; foster parent; any other adult residing in the home who serves in a parental role; an employee of a public or private residential home, institution or agency; or other person responsible for the child’s welfare while in a residential, educational or day child care setting, including any staff person.

(6)  “Physical injury” means death, or permanent or temporary disfigurement or impairment of any bodily organ or function by other than accidental means.

(7)  “Emotional maltreatment” means a pattern of malicious behavior which results in impaired psychological growth and development.

(8)  “Sexual abuse” consists of any act or acts by any person involving sexual molestation or exploitation of a child including but not limited to incest, prostitution, rape, sodomy, or any lewd and lascivious conduct involving a child.  Sexual abuse also includes the aiding, abetting, counseling, hiring, or procuring of a child to perform or participate in any photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, representation, or other presentation which, in whole or in part, depicts a sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse involving a child.

(9)  “Multi‑disciplinary team” means a group of professionals, paraprofessionals and other appropriate individuals, empanelled by the commissioner of social and rehabilitation services under this chapter, for the purpose of assisting in the identification and investigation of cases of child abuse and neglect, coordinating treatment services for abused and neglected children and their families and promoting child abuse prevention.

(10)  “Substantiated report” means that the commissioner or the commissioner’s designee has determined after investigation that a report is based upon accurate and reliable information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the child has been abused or neglected.

(11)  [Repealed.]

(12)  “Member of the clergy” means a priest, rabbi, clergy member, ordained or licensed minister, leader of any church or religious body, accredited Christian Science practitioner, person performing official duties on behalf of a church or religious body that are recognized as the duties of a priest, rabbi, clergy, nun, brother, ordained or licensed minister, leader of any church or religious body, or accredited Christian Science practitioner. 

(13)  “Redacted investigation file” means the intake report, the investigation activities summary, and case determination report that are amended in accordance with confidentiality requirements set forth in subsection 4913(d) of this title.

(14)  “Child abuse and neglect registry” means a record of all investigations that have resulted in a substantiated report on or after January 1, 1992.

(15)  “Registry record” means an entry in the child abuse and neglect registry that consists of the name of an individual substantiated for child abuse or neglect, the date of the finding, the nature of the finding, and at least one other personal identifier, other than a name, listed in order to avoid the possibility of misidentification.

§ 4913.  SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT; REMEDIAL

               ACTION

(a)  Any physician, surgeon, osteopath, chiropractor, or physician’s assistant licensed, certified, or registered under the provisions of Title 26, any resident physician, intern, or any hospital administrator in any hospital in this state, whether or not so registered, and any registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, medical examiner, dentist, psychologist, pharmacist, any other health care provider, school superintendent, school teacher, school librarian, day child care worker, school principal, school guidance counselor, mental health professional, social worker, probation officer, police officer, camp owner, camp administrator, camp counselor, or member of the clergy who has reasonable cause to believe that any child has been abused or neglected shall report or cause a report to be made in accordance with the provisions of section 4914 of this title within 24 hours.  As used in this subsection, “camp” includes any residential or nonresidential recreational program.

(b)  Any other concerned person not listed in subsection (a) of this section who has reasonable cause to believe that any child has been abused or neglected may report or cause a report to be made in accordance with the provisions of section 4914 of this title.

(c)  Any person enumerated in subsections subsection (a) or (b) of this section, other than a person suspected of child abuse, who in good faith makes a report to the department of social and rehabilitation services shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability which might otherwise be incurred or imposed as a result of making a report.

(d)  The name of and any identifying information about either the person making the report, or any person mentioned in the report shall be confidential unless the person making the report specifically requests allows disclosure or unless a judicial proceeding results therefrom or unless a court, after a hearing, finds probable cause to believe that the report was not made in good faith and orders the department to make the name of the reporter available.

(e)(1)  A person who violates subsection (a) of this section shall be fined not more than $500.00.

(2)  A person who violates subsection (a) of this section with the intent to conceal abuse or neglect of a child shall be imprisoned not more than six months or fined not more than $1,000.00, or both.

(3)  This section shall not be construed to prohibit a prosecution under any other provision of law.

(f)  Except as provided in subsection (g) of this section, a person may not refuse to make a report required by this section on the grounds that making the report would violate a privilege or disclose a confidential communication.

(g)  A member of the clergy shall not be required to make a report under this section if the report would be based upon information received in a communication which is:

(1)  made to a member of the clergy acting in his or her capacity as spiritual advisor;

(2)  intended by the parties to be confidential at the time the communication is made;

(3)  intended by the communicant to be an act of contrition or a matter of conscience; and

(4)  required to be confidential by religious law, doctrine, or tenet.

(h)  When a member of the clergy receives information about abuse or neglect of a child in a manner other than as described in subsection (g) of this section, he or she is required to report on the basis of that information even though he or she may have also received a report of abuse or neglect about the same person or incident in the manner described in subsection (g) of this section. 

§ 4914.  NATURE AND CONTENT OF REPORT; TO WHOM MADE

A report shall be made orally or in writing to the commissioner for children and families or designee.  The commissioner or designee shall request the reporter to follow the oral report with a written report, unless the reporter is anonymous.  Reports shall contain the name and address or other contact information of the reporter as well as the names and addresses of the child and the parents or other persons responsible for the child’s care, if known; the age of the child; the nature and extent of the child’s injuries together with any evidence of previous abuse and neglect of the child or the child’s siblings; and any other information that the reporter believes might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injuries or reasons for the neglect as well as in protecting the child and assisting the family.  If a report of child abuse or neglect involves the acts or omissions of the commissioner for children and families or employees of that department, then the report shall be directed to the secretary of the agency of human services who shall cause the report to be investigated by staff of the department of disabilities, aging, and independent living or of corrections or other appropriate agency staff other than staff of the department for children and families.  If the report is substantiated, services shall be offered to the child and to his or her family or caretaker according to the requirements of section 4915 of this title.

§ 4915.  INVESTIGATION; REMEDIAL ACTION

(a)  The commissioner of social and rehabilitation services shall cause an investigation to commence department shall begin an investigation within 72 hours after receipt of a report made pursuant to section 4914 of this title, provided that it has received sufficient information to proceed.

(b)  The investigation, to the extent that it is reasonable under the facts and circumstances presented by the particular allegation of child abuse, shall include all of the following:

(1)  A visit to the child’s place of residence or place of custody and to the location of the alleged abuse or neglect.

(2)  An interview with, or observance of the child reportedly having been abused or neglected.  If the investigator elects to interview the child, that interview may take place without the approval of the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian, provided that it takes place in the presence of a disinterested adult who may be, but shall not be limited to being, a teacher, a member of the clergy, child care provider regulated by the department, or a nurse.

(3)  Determination of the nature, extent, and cause of any abuse or neglect.

(4)  Determination of the identity of the person alleged to be responsible for such abuse or neglect.

(5)(A)  The identity, by name, of any other children living in the same home environment as the subject child.  The investigator shall consider the physical and emotional condition of those children and may interview them, unless the child is the person who is alleged to be responsible for such abuse or neglect, in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (2) of this subsection.

(B)  The identity, by name, of any other children who may be at risk if the abuse was alleged to have been committed by someone who is not a member of the subject child’s household.  The investigator shall consider the physical and emotional condition of those children and may interview them, unless the child is the person who is alleged to be responsible for such abuse or neglect, in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (2) of this subsection.

(6)  A determination of the immediate and longterm long‑term risk to each child if that child remains in the existing home or other environment.

(7)  Consideration of the environment and the relationship of any children therein to the person alleged to be responsible for the suspected abuse or neglect.

(8)  All other data deemed pertinent.

(c)  If the investigation produces evidence that the child has been abused or neglected For cases investigated by the department, the commissioner may, to the extent that it is reasonable, cause assistance to be provided provide assistance to the child and the child’s family in accordance with a written plan of treatment.

(d)  The commissioner, designee, or any person required to report under section 4913 or any other person performing an investigation pursuant to section 4914 may take or cause to be taken, photographs of trauma visible on a child who is the subject of a report.  The commissioner or designee may seek consultation with a physician.  If it is indicated as appropriate by the physician, the commissioner or designee may cause the child who is subject of a report to undergo a radiological examination, without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian. 

(e)  Services may be provided to the child’s immediate family whether or not the child remains in the home. 

(f)  The department shall report to and request assistance from law enforcement in the following circumstances:

(1)  Investigations of child sexual abuse by an alleged perpetrator age 10 or older.

(2)  Investigations of serious physical abuse or neglect likely to result in criminal charges or requiring emergency medical care.

(3)  Situations potentially dangerous to the child or department worker.

§ 4916.  CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT REGISTRY; RECORDS OF
               ABUSE AND NEGLECT

(a)(1)  The commissioner of social and rehabilitation services shall maintain a child abuse and neglect registry which shall contain written records of all investigations initiated under section 4915 of this title unless the commissioner or the commissioner’s designee determines after investigation that the reported facts are unsubstantiated, in which case, after notice to the person complained about, the records shall be destroyed unless the person complained about requests within one year that it not be destroyed a record of all investigations that have resulted in a substantiated report on or after January 1, 1992.  Except as provided in subdivision (2) of this subsection, prior to placement of a substantiated report on the registry, the commissioner shall comply with the procedures set forth in section 4916a of this title.

(2)  In cases involving sexual abuse or serious physical abuse of a child, the commissioner in his or her sole judgment may list a substantiated report on the registry pending any administrative review after:

(A)  Reviewing the investigation file.

(B)  Making written findings in consideration of:

(i)  the nature and seriousness of the alleged behavior; and

(ii)  the person’s continuing access to children.

(3)  A person alleged to have abused or neglected a child and placed on the registry in accordance with subdivision (2) of this subsection shall be notified of the registry entry, provided with the commissioner’s findings, and advised of the right to seek an administrative review in accordance with section 4916a of this title.

(b)  If no court proceeding is brought pursuant to subsection 4913(d) of this title within one year of the date of the notice to the person complained about, the records relating to the unsubstantiated report shall be destroyed  A registry record means an entry in the child abuse and neglect registry that consists of the name of an individual substantiated for child abuse or neglect, the date of the finding, the nature of the finding, and at least one other personal identifier, other than a name, listed in order to avoid the possibility of misidentification.

(c)  The commissioner shall adopt rules to permit use of the registry records as authorized by this subchapter while preserving confidentiality of the records registry and other department records related to abuse and neglect. 

(d)  Written Registry records maintained in the registry shall only be disclosed to the commissioner or person designated by the commissioner to receive such records, persons assigned by the commissioner to investigate reports, the person reported on, an employer as defined in subsection 4919(e) of this title, or a state’s attorney or the attorney general.  In no event shall registry records be made available for employment purposes, other than as set forth in section 309 or 4919 of this title, or for credit purposes, or to a law enforcement agency other than the state’s attorney.  Any person who violates this subsection, except as provided in section 4919 of this title, shall be fined not more than $500.00.

(e)(1)  Verbal Notice.  The commissioner or the commissioner’s designee shall promptly inform a parent or guardian of the child that a report has been made and substantiated.  If a parent or guardian is under investigation for abuse or neglect, such information need only be provided to that parent or guardian in accordance with subsection 4916(d) of this title.

(2)  Written Records.  If Absent good cause shown by the department, if a report has been substantiated, the commissioner or the commissioner’s designee may shall provide upon request the written record redacted investigation file to the child’s parent or guardian or, if there is a pending juvenile proceeding or if the child is in custody of the commissioner, to the child’s attorney. 

(f)(1)  The commissioner or the commissioner’s designee may inform the following persons that a report has been substantiated:

(1)(A)  The person responsible for supervising the staff in the child’s residential, educational or day child care setting.

(2)(B)  Upon request, to the person who made the report under subsection 4913(a) of this title.

(C)  Any person authorized by law to receive such information. 

(2)  A person receiving information under this subsection shall not disclose that information to persons who are not involved with the provision of treatment services under section 4915 of this title to the abused or neglected child.

(g)  A person may, at any time, apply to the human services board for relief if he or she has reasonable cause to believe that contents of the registry are being misused.  All registry records relating to an individual child shall be destroyed when the child reaches the age of majority.  All registry records relating to a family or siblings within a family shall be destroyed when the youngest sibling reaches the age of majority.   All registry records shall be maintained according to the name of the child who has been abused or neglected, and the name of the person about whom the report was made.

(h)  A person may, at any time, apply to the human services board for an order expunging from the registry a record concerning him or her on the grounds that it is unsubstantiated or not otherwise expunged in accordance with this section.  The board shall hold a fair hearing under section 3091 of Title 3 on the application at which hearing the burden shall be on the commissioner to establish that the record shall not be expunged.

§ 4916a.  CHALLENGING PLACEMENT ON THE REGISTRY

(a)  If an investigation conducted in accordance with section 4915 of this title results in a determination that a report of child abuse or neglect should be substantiated, the department shall notify the person alleged to have abused or neglected a child of the following:

(1)  The nature of the substantiation decision, and that the department intends to enter the record of the substantiation into the registry.

(2)  Who has access to registry information and under what circumstances.

(3)  The implications of having one’s name placed on the registry as it applies to employment, licensure, and registration.

(4)  The right to request a review of the substantiation determination by an administrative reviewer, the time in which the request for review shall be made, and the consequences of not seeking a review.

(5)  The right to receive a copy of the commissioner’s written findings made in accordance with subdivision 4916(a)(2) of this title if applicable.

(b)  Under this section, notice by the department to a person alleged to have abused or neglected a child shall be by first class mail sent to the person’s last known address.

(c)  A person alleged to have abused or neglected a child may seek an administrative review of the department’s intention to place the person’s name on the registry by notifying the department within 14 days of the date the department mailed notice of the right to review in accordance with subsections (a) and (b) of this section.

(d)  The department shall hold an administrative review conference within 14 days of receipt of the request for review.  At least seven days prior to the administrative review conference, the department shall provide to the person requesting review a copy of the redacted investigation file, notice of time and place of the conference, and conference procedures, including information that may be submitted and mechanisms for providing testimony.  The department shall also provide to the person those redacted investigation files that relate to prior investigations that the department has relied upon to make its substantiation determination in the case in which a review has been requested.

(e)  At the administrative review conference, the person who requested the review shall be provided with the opportunity to present documentary evidence or other information that supports his or her position and provides information to the reviewer in making the most accurate decision regarding the allegation.  The department shall have the burden of proving that it has accurately and reliably concluded that a reasonable person would believe that the child has been abused or neglected by that person.  Upon the person’s request, the conference may be held by teleconference.

(f)  The department shall establish an administrative case review unit within the department and contract for the services of administrative reviewers.  An administrative reviewer shall be a neutral and independent arbiter who has no prior involvement in the original investigation of the allegation.

(g)  Within seven days of the conference, the administrative reviewer shall:

(1)  reject the department’s substantiation determination;

(2)  accept the department’s substantiation; or

(3)  place the substantiation determination on hold and direct the department to further investigate the case based upon recommendations of the reviewer.

(h)  If the administrative reviewer accepts the department’s substantiation determination, a registry record shall be made immediately. 

(i)  Within seven days of the decision to reject or accept or to place the substantiation on hold in accordance with subsection (g) of this section, the administrative reviewer shall provide notice to the person of his or her decision.  If the administrative reviewer accepts the department’s substantiation, the notice shall advise the person of the right to appeal the administrative reviewer’s decision to the human services board in accordance with section 4916b of this title.

(j)  Persons whose names were placed on the registry on or after January 1, 1992 but prior to July 1, 2007 shall be entitled to an opportunity to seek an administrative review to challenge the substantiation pursuant to this section.

(k)  If no administrative review is requested, the department’s decision in the case shall be final, and the person shall have no further right of review under this section. The commissioner may grant a waiver and permit such a review upon good cause shown.

§ 4916b.  HUMAN SERVICES BOARD HEARING

(a)  Within 30 days of the date on which the administrative reviewer mailed notice of placement of a report on the registry, the person who is the subject of the substantiation may apply in writing to the human services board for relief. The board shall hold a fair hearing pursuant to 3 V.S.A. § 3091.  When the department receives notice of the appeal, it shall make note in the registry record that the substantiation has been appealed to the board.

(b)(1)  The board shall hold a hearing within 60 days of the receipt of the request for a hearing and shall issue a decision within 30 days of the hearing.

(2)  Priority shall be given to appeals in which there are immediate employment consequences for the person appealing the decision.

(c)  A hearing may be stayed upon request of the petitioner if there is a related case pending in court.

(d)  If no review by the board is requested, the department’s decision in the case shall be final, and the person shall have no further right for review under this section.  The board may grant a waiver and permit such a review upon good cause shown.

§ 4916c.  PETITION FOR EXPUNGEMENT FROM THE REGISTRY

(a)  A person whose name has been listed on the registry for at least seven years may file a written request with the commissioner, seeking a review for the purpose of expunging an individual registry record.  The commissioner shall grant a review upon request.

(b)  The person shall have the burden of proving that a reasonable person would believe that he or she no longer presents a risk to the safety or well‑being of children.  Factors to be considered by the commissioner shall include:

(1)  The nature of the substantiation that resulted in the person’s name being placed on the registry.

(2)  The number of substantiations, if more than one.

(3)  The amount of time that has elapsed since the substantiation.

(4)  The circumstances of the substantiation that would indicate whether a similar incident would be likely to occur.

(5)  Any activities that would reflect upon the person’s changed behavior or circumstances, such as therapy, employment, or education.

(6)  References that attest to the person’s good moral character.

(c)  At the review, the person who requested the review shall be provided with the opportunity to present any evidence or other information, including witnesses, that supports his or her request for expungement.  Upon the person’s request, the review may be held by teleconference.

(d)  A person may seek a review under this section no more than once every 36 months. 

(e)  Within 30 days of the date on which the commissioner mailed notice of the decision pursuant to this section, a person may appeal the decision to the human services board.  The person shall be prohibited from challenging his or her substantiation at such hearing, and the sole issue before the board shall be whether the commissioner abused his or her discretion in denial of the petition for expungement.  The hearing shall be on the record below, and determinations of credibility of witnesses made by the commissioner shall be given deference by the board.

(f)  The department shall take steps to provide reasonable notice to persons on the registry of their right to seek an expungement under this section.  Actual notice is not required.   Reasonable steps may include activities such as the production of an informative fact sheet about the expungement process, posting of such information on the department website, and other approaches typically taken by the department to inform the public about the department’s activities and policies.  The department shall send notice of the expungement process to any person listed on the registry for whom a registry check has been requested.

§ 4916d.  AUTOMATIC EXPUNGEMENT OF REGISTRY RECORDS

(a)  Registry entries concerning a person who was substantiated for behavior occurring before the person reached 10 years of age shall be expunged when the person reaches the age of 18, provided that the person has had no additional substantiated registry entries, unless the department determines that the registry record should not be expunged due to the nature and seriousness of the incident of abuse.

(b)  If the department determines that the registry record should not be expunged, the department shall provide written notice to the individual.  The individual shall have the opportunity to petition for expungement from the registry pursuant to section 4916c of this title.

§ 4916e.  NOTICE TO MINORS

If the person alleged to have abused or neglected a child is a minor, any notice required pursuant to this subchapter shall be sent:

(1)  to the minor’s parents or guardian; or

(2)  if the child is in the custody of the commissioner, to the social worker assigned to the child by the department and the child’s counsel of record. 

* * *

§ 4919.  DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION

(a)  The commissioner shall maintain a registry which shall contain the following information: the names of all the individuals found on the basis of a substantiated report to have abused, neglected or exploited a child; the date of the finding; and the nature of the finding.  In addition, the commissioner shall require that, aside from a person’s name, at least one other personal identifier is listed in the registry to prevent the possibility of misidentification.

(b)  The commissioner or the commissioner’s designee may disclose registry information only as set forth in section 4916 of this title or as follows:

(1)  To the state’s attorney or the attorney general;

(2)  To the owner or operator of a facility regulated by the department for the purpose of informing the owner or operator that employment of a specific individual may result in loss of license or registration, as set forth in section 309 of this title;

(3)  To an employer if such information is used to determine whether to hire or retain a specific individual providing care, custody, treatment, transportation, or supervision of children or vulnerable adults.  The employer may submit a request concerning a current employee, volunteer, grantee, or contractor or an individual to whom the employer has given a conditional offer of a contract, volunteer position, or employment.  The request shall be accompanied by a release signed by the current or prospective employee, volunteer, grantee, or contractor.  If that individual has a record of a substantiated report, the commissioner shall provide the registry information record to the employer;

(4)  To the commissioner of disabilities, aging, and independent living, or the commissioner’s designee, for purposes related to the licensing or registration of facilities regulated by the department of disabilities, aging, and independent living;

(5)  To the commissioner of health or of disabilities, aging, and independent living, or the commissioner’s designee, for purposes related to oversight and monitoring of persons who are served by or compensated with funds provided by the departments of health and of disabilities, aging, and independent living, including persons to whom a conditional offer of employment has been made;

(6)  Upon request or when relevant to other states’ adult protective services offices; and

(7)  Upon request or when relevant to other states’ child protection agencies.

(b)  An employer providing transportation services to children or vulnerable adults may disclose registry records obtained pursuant to subdivision (a)(3) of this section to the agency of human services or its designee for the sole purpose of auditing the records to ensure compliance with this subchapter.  An employer shall provide such records at the request of the agency or its designee.  Only registry records regarding individuals who provide direct transportation services or otherwise have direct contact with children or vulnerable adults may be disclosed.

(c)  Volunteers shall be considered employees for purposes of this section.

(d)  Disclosure of registry records or information or other records used or obtained in the course of providing services to prevent child abuse or neglect or to treat abused or neglected children and their families by one member of a multidisciplinary team to another member of that team shall not subject either member of the multidisciplinary team, individually, or the team as a whole, to any civil or criminal liability notwithstanding any other provision of law.

(e)  “Employer,” as used in this section, means a person or organization who employs or contracts with one or more individuals to care for or provide transportation services to children or vulnerable adults, on either a paid or volunteer basis. 

* * *


Sec. 2.  33 V.S.A. § 6911 is amended to read:

§ 6911.  RECORDS OF ABUSE, NEGLECT, AND EXPLOITATION

* * *

(c)  The commissioner or the commissioner’s designee may disclose registry information only to:

* * *

(3)  an employer if such information is used to determine whether to hire or retain a specific individual providing care, custody, treatment, transportation, or supervision of children or vulnerable adults.  “Employer,” as used in this section, means a person or organization who employs or contracts with one or more individuals to care for or provide transportation services to children or vulnerable adults, on either a paid or volunteer basis.  The employer may submit a request concerning a current employee, volunteer, grantee, or contractor or an individual to whom the employer has given a conditional offer of a contract, volunteer position, or employment.  The request shall be accompanied by a release signed by the current or prospective employee, volunteer, grantee, or contractor.  If that individual has a record of a substantiated report, the commissioner shall provide the registry information to the employer;

* * *

(d)  An employer providing transportation services to children or vulnerable adults may disclose registry records obtained pursuant to subdivision (c)(3) of this section to the agency of human services or its designee for the sole purpose of auditing the records to ensure compliance with this chapter.  An employer shall provide such records at the request of the agency or its designee.  Only registry records regarding individuals who provide direct transportation services or otherwise have direct contact with children or vulnerable adults may be disclosed.

(e)  A person may, at any time, apply to the human services board for relief if he or she has reasonable cause to believe that the contents of the registry or investigative records are being misused.

(e)(f)  A person may at any time apply to the department for expungement of his or her name from the registry.  The petitioner shall have the burden of showing why his or her name should be expunged from the registry.

(f)(g)  Any person who violates this section shall be fined not more than $500.00.

(g)(h)  Volunteers shall be considered employees for purposes of this section.


Sec. 3.  15A V.S.A. § 1-113 is amended to read:

§ 1-113.  CRIMINAL RECORD CHECKS

(a)  Criminal record checks required under this title shall be obtained as provided in this section.

(b)  The commissioner of the department of social and rehabilitation services for children and families or any judge of the probate court shall obtain from the Vermont criminal information center the record of Vermont convictions and pending criminal charges for any person being evaluated to be an adoptive parent.

(c)  The commissioner or probate judge, through the Vermont criminal information center shall request the record of convictions and pending criminal charges of the appropriate criminal repositories in all states in which there is reason to believe the applicant has resided or been employed.

(d)  If no disqualifying record is identified at the state level, the The commissioner or probate judge through the Vermont criminal information center shall request from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) a national criminal history record check of the applicant’s convictions and pending criminal charges.  The request to the FBI shall be accompanied by a set of the applicant’s fingerprints and a fee established by the Vermont criminal information center which shall be paid by the applicant and shall reflect the cost of obtaining the record from the FBI.

(e)  The Vermont criminal information center shall send to the requester any record received pursuant to this section or inform the requester that no record exists.

(f)  The requester shall promptly provide a copy of any record of convictions and pending criminal charges to the applicant and shall inform the applicant of the right to appeal the accuracy and completeness of the record pursuant to rules adopted by the Vermont criminal information center.

(g)  Upon completion of the applicant process under this section, the applicant’s fingerprint card and any copies thereof shall be destroyed.

Sec. 4.  33 V.S.A. § 309 is amended to read:

§ 309.  ACCESS TO RECORDS

(a)(1)  The commissioner may obtain from the Vermont crime information center the record of convictions of any person to the extent the commissioner has determined by rule that such information is necessary to regulate a facility or individual subject to regulation by the department.

(2)  In cases involving the prospective placement of a child in foster care, the commissioner shall for any prospective foster parent:

(A)  Obtain from the Vermont criminal information center the record of Vermont convictions and pending criminal charges.

(B)  Request, through the Vermont criminal information center, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) a national criminal history record check of the prospective foster parent.  The request to the FBI shall be accompanied by a set of the applicant’s fingerprints, and a fee established by the Vermont criminal information center shall reflect the cost of obtaining the record from the FBI.

(C)  The department shall bear all costs for obtaining criminal records for prospective foster parents licensed by the department.

(3)  The commissioner shall first notify the person receive written authorization from the person whose record is being requested before requesting the record from the Vermont crime information center.

(b)(1)  The owner or operator of a facility or program licensed or, registered, or otherwise regulated by the department may ask the commissioner for the record of convictions criminal record and the record of substantiated reports of child abuse child abuse and neglect registry record of the following individuals:

(A)  a current employee or;

(B)  a person to whom the owner or operator has given a conditional offer of employment; or

(C)  any other person to the extent the commissioner has determined by rule that such information is necessary to regulate a facility or program.

(2)  The request shall be in writing and shall be accompanied by a release signed by the current or prospective employee person whose record is sought. The owner or operator release form shall inform the current or prospective employee person that he or she has the right to appeal the accuracy and completeness of the record.  Upon receiving a request under this subsection, the commissioner shall ask the Vermont crime information center for the record of convictions of the current or prospective employee and shall promptly search the child abuse and neglect registry.

(c)  If the person has a record of convictions, the commissioner shall provide the owner or operator of the facility or program that is licensed, registered, or otherwise regulated by the department with a copy of the record. If the person has a record of substantiated reports of child abuse in the child abuse and neglect registry, the commissioner shall inform the requesting owner or operator that such record exists.

(d)  Information released to an owner or operator under this section shall not be released or disclosed by the owner or operator to any other person except as authorized by law.  Release or disclosure of such information by an owner or operator may result in loss of license or, registration, or certification.

(e)  As used in this section,:

(1)  “Commissioner” means the commissioner or the commissioner’s designee.

(2)  “Employee” shall include volunteers.

(3)  “Substantiated reports of child abuse” “Child abuse and neglect registry record” means reports of child abuse substantiated under section 4915 of this title and entered into the child abuse and neglect registry maintained by the department pursuant to chapter 49 of this title.

(4)  “Volunteer” means an individual who without compensation provides services through a public or private organization.

Sec. 5.  SUNSET

The amendments in Secs. 3 and 4 shall be repealed on July 1, 2009 and 15A V.S.A. § 1-113 and 33 V.S.A. § 309 shall revert to the prior statutory text.

Sec. 6.  STUDY

(a)  The commissioner of the department for children and families or a designee shall perform a study for the purpose of considering:

(1)  The need for the agency or its designee to have the authority to perform criminal background checks on individuals providing care, custody, treatment, transportation, or supervision for children or vulnerable adults.

(2)  The need for reciprocal agreements with New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire to share child abuse registry information for the purpose of performing child abuse registry checks on residents of those states who provide care, custody, treatment, transportation, or supervision for children or vulnerable adults in this state.  The commissioner shall consult with similar agency administrators in those states to determine the feasibility of these reciprocal agreements.

(3)  The need for broadened authority for employers providing care, custody, treatment, transportation, or supervision for children or vulnerable adults to perform criminal background checks on prospective and current employees.

(4)  Issues related to allegations of abuse or neglect of a child, including a tiered approach to the investigation and substantiation of child abuse or neglect that is based upon the severity of the behavior and the risk to children and the community and that establishes appropriate corresponding consequences and protections.

(b)  While considering the issues of subsection (a) of this section, the commissioner shall consult with the following individuals, organizations, and state agencies:

(1)  The agency of human services.

(2)  The agency of human services’ director of housing and transportation.

(3)  The defender general.

(4)  Early childhood educators and caregivers.

(5)  The family services unit of the department for children and families.

(6)  The network against domestic and sexual violence.

(7)  Teachers, school nurses, and school administrators.

(8)  Pediatricians.

(9)  The Vermont citizens advisory board.

(10)  The Vermont public transportation association.

(c)  The commissioner shall report the findings of this study to the senate and house committees on judiciary, the senate committee on health and welfare, and the house committee on human services on or before November 1, 2007.

Sec. 7.  3 V.S.A. § 5407 is amended to read:

§ 5407.  SEX OFFENDER’S DUTY RESPONSIBILITY TO REPORT

(a)  A Except as provided in section 5411d of this title, a sex offender shall report to the department as follows:

(1)  if convicted of a registry offense in another state, within 10 days after either establishing residence in this state or crossing into this state for purposes of employment, carrying on a vocation, or being a student, the sex offender shall provide the information listed in subsection 5403(a) of this title;

(2)  annually within 10 days after the registrant’s birthday, or if a person is determined to be a sexually violent predator, that person shall report to the department every 90 days;

(3)  within three days after any change of address, or if a person is designated as a high‑risk sex offender pursuant to section 5411b of this title, that person shall report to the department within 36 hours;

(4)  within three days after the registrant enrolls in or separates from any postsecondary educational institution; and

(5)  within three days after any change in place of employment; and

(6)  within three days of any name change.

* * *

(f)  A person required to register as a sex offender under this subchapter shall continue to comply with this section for the life of that person, except during periods of incarceration, if that person:

(1)  has at least one prior conviction for an offense described in subdivision 5401(10) of this subchapter or a comparable offense in another jurisdiction of the United States;

(2)  has been convicted of a sexual assault as defined in section 3252 of this title or aggravated sexual assault as defined in section 3253 of this title; however, if a person convicted under section 3252 is not more than six years older than the victim of the assault and if the victim is 14 years or older, then the offender shall not be required to register for life if the age of the victim was the basis for the conviction; or

(3)  has been determined to be a sexually violent predator pursuant to section 5405 of this subchapter title; or

(4)  has been designated as a noncompliant high‑risk sex offender pursuant to section 5411d of this title.

* * *

(h)  A registrant who has no permanent address shall report to the department to notify it as to his or her temporary residence.  Temporary residence, for purposes of this section, need not include an actual dwelling or numbered street address, but shall identify a specific location.  A registrant shall not be required to check in daily if he or she makes acceptable other arrangements with the department to keep his or her information current.  The department may enter into an agreement with a local law enforcement agency to perform this function, but shall maintain responsibility for compliance with this subsection.

Sec. 8.  13 V.S.A. § 5411 is amended to read:

§ 5411.  NOTIFICATION TO LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AND

               LOCAL COMMUNITY

* * *

(e)  After 10 years have elapsed from the completion of the sentence, a person required to register as a sex offender for life pursuant to section 5407 of this title who is not designated as a noncompliant high‑risk sex offender pursuant to section 5411d of this title may petition the district court for a termination of community notification, including the internet.  The state shall make a reasonable attempt to notify the victim of the proceeding, and consider victim testimony regarding the petition.  If the registrant was convicted of a crime which requires lifetime registration, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the person is a high‑risk sex offender.  Should the registrant present evidence that he or she is not a high‑risk offender, the state shall have the burden of proof to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the person remains a high risk to reoffend.  The court shall consider whether the offender has successfully completed sex offender treatment.  The court may require the offender to submit to a psychosexual evaluation.  If the court finds that there is a high risk of reoffense, notification shall continue.  The Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure shall apply to these proceedings.  A lifetime registrant may petition the court to be removed from community notification requirements once every 60 months.  The presumption under this section that a lifetime registrant is a high‑risk offender shall not automatically subject the offender to increased public access to his or her status as a sex offender and related information under subdivision (c)(1) of this section or section 5411a of this title.


Sec. 9.  13 V.S.A. § 5411a is amended to read:

§ 5411a.  ELECTRONIC POSTING OF THE SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY

(a)  Notwithstanding sections 2056a–2056e of Title 20, the department shall electronically post information on the internet in accordance with subsection (b) of this section regarding the following sex offenders, upon their release from confinement:

* * *

(5)(A)  Sex offenders who have not complied with sex offender treatment recommended by the department of corrections or who are ineligible for sex offender treatment.  The department of corrections shall establish rules for the administration of this subdivision and shall specify what circumstances constitute noncompliance with treatment and criteria for ineligibility to participate in treatment.  Offenders subject to this provision shall have the right to appeal the department of corrections’ determination in superior court in accordance with Rule 75 of the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure.  This subdivision shall apply prospectively and shall not apply to those sex offenders who did not comply with treatment or were ineligible for treatment prior to March 1, 2005. 

(B)  The department of corrections shall notify the department if a sex offender who is compliant with sex offender treatment completes his or her sentence but has not completed sex offender treatment.  As long as the offender complies with treatment, the offender shall not be considered noncompliant under this subdivision and shall not be placed on the internet registry in accordance with this subdivision alone.  However, the offender shall submit to the department proof of continuing treatment compliance every three months.  Proof of compliance shall be a form provided by the department that the offender’s treatment provider shall sign, attesting to the offender’s continuing compliance with recommended treatment.  Failure to submit such proof as required under this subdivision shall result in the offender’s placement on the internet registry in accordance with subdivision (A) of this subdivision (5).

* * *

Sec. 10.  13 V.S.A. § 5411d is added to read:

§ 5411d.  DESIGNATION OF NONCOMPLIANT HIGH‑RISK SEX

                OFFENDER

(a)  Prior to releasing a person from total confinement, the department of corrections shall designate the person as a noncompliant high‑risk sex offender if the person:

(1)  Is incarcerated on or after the effective date of this act for lewd and lascivious conduct with a child as defined in section 2602 of this title, sexual assault as defined in section 3252 of this title, aggravated sexual assault as defined in section 3253 of this title, or any attempt to commit a crime listed herein, or a comparable offense in another jurisdiction of the United States.

(2)  Is not subject to indeterminate life sentences under section 3271 of this title.

(3)  Is designated as a high‑risk sex offender pursuant to section 5411b of this title.

(4)  Is noncompliant with sex offender treatment as defined by department of corrections’ directives.

(b)  Noncompliant high‑risk sex offenders shall report to the department as follows:

(1)  In person, within 15 days from the date of release from department of corrections’ supervision, and within every 30 days thereafter.

(2)   Prior to any change of address.  However, if the change of address is unanticipated, the offender shall report within one day of the change of address.

(3)  Prior to enrollment in or separation from any postsecondary educational institution.  However, if the change in school status is unanticipated, the offender shall report within one day of the change.

(4)  Within one day of any change in a place of employment.

(c)  In addition to the registry information required in section 5403 of this title, a noncompliant high‑risk sex offender shall provide the department with the make, model, color, registration, and license plate number of any vehicle the person operates prior to operation.  An offender found in operation of a vehicle not on the list provided to the department shall be considered to be in violation of this subsection.

(d)  The department shall arrange for the noncompliant high‑risk sex offender to have his or her digital photograph updated annually for purposes of the electronic registry as provided in section 5411a of this title.  An offender who is requested by the department to report to the department or a local law enforcement agency for the purpose of being photographed for the internet registry shall comply with the request within 30 days.

(e)  The department shall conduct periodic unannounced registry compliance checks on noncompliant high‑risk sex offenders to verify the accuracy of registry information.  The department may enter into an agreement with a local law enforcement agency to perform duties under this subsection and under subdivision (b)(1) of this section, but shall maintain responsibility for compliance with this subsection.

(f)(1)  A noncompliant high‑risk sex offender may petition the district court to be relieved from the heightened registry requirements in this section once every five years from the date of designation.  The offender shall have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she:

(A)  no longer qualifies as a high‑risk offender as defined in section 5401 of this title and rules adopted by the department of corrections in accordance with section 5411b of this title; and

(B)  has complied with and completed sex offender treatment as provided by department of corrections’ directives.

(2)  The Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure shall apply to these proceedings.

(3)  If the court finds that the offender is not high‑risk and has successfully completed treatment, the court shall order that the offender is no longer considered a noncompliant high‑risk offender and is subsequently relieved from the heightened registry requirements of this section; however, the offender shall still continue to comply with sex offender registry and other requirements as provided elsewhere in this subchapter.

(g)(1)  A noncompliant high‑risk sex offender who violates any of the registry requirements under this section shall be imprisoned for a maximum term of life.  A sentence may be suspended in whole or in part, or the person may be eligible for parole or release on conditional reentry or furlough, provided the person is subject to electronic monitoring using an active global positioning system.  Electronic monitoring shall be an addition to intensive supervision by the department of corrections.

(2)  In a criminal proceeding for violating any of the registry requirements under this section, a defendant shall be prohibited from challenging his or her status as a noncompliant high‑risk sex offender.

Sec. 11.  4 V.S.A. § 437 is amended to read:

§ 437.  Civil jurisdiction of district court

The district court shall have jurisdiction of the following actions:

* * *

(9)  Sex offender notification proceedings pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 5411(c) subsections 5411(e) and 5411d(f) of Title 13.

* * *

Sec. 12.  EFFECTIVE DATE

(a)  In Sec. 2 of this act, the following provisions shall take effect September 1, 2007:  33 V.S.A. §§ 4916(a), 4916a, and 4916b.

(b)  All other sections shall take effect upon passage.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us