Today, Governor Bobby Jindal was joined by Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator, State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson and other sheriffs and law enforcement officials at the Caddo Parish Correctional Center in Shreveport to announce five bills for the upcoming regular session to crack down on crime in Louisiana. The five bills are aimed at targeting sex offenders using social networking sites, increasing penalties on the monsters who abuse physically and mentally infirm victims and people over the age of 65, ensuring sex offenders are complying with current law, transferring the Missing and Exploited Children Information Clearinghouse to the State Police, and closing the loophole in the law that allowed substances including fake bath salts and synthetic marijuana to be sold legally.
Governor Jindal said, "The goal of all five of these bills is to keep our communities a safe place for families to raise their children. We want every kind of criminal to know that Louisiana is the last place they want to break the law or harm a child. Here, our penalties are severe, our justice is swift, and we will never tire of keeping our streets and neighborhoods secure."
Colonel Mike Edmonson, State Police Superintendent said, "As a law enforcement officer, our greatest responsibility is to ensure the safety of the citizens which we serve. I applaud the Governor and the legislature for their efforts to strengthen the laws and penalties for those individuals who prey on our children and seniors who are truly the foundation of our communities. State Police will continue to work with our local, parish, state and Federal partners through proactive enforcement efforts and by raising awareness to the challenges which we face."
Bossier Parish Sheriff Larry Deen said, "I applaud the Governor for making stopping crime a priority. Criminals are constantly changing their strategies to avoid prison, so we need to make sure our laws are updated quick enough to crackdown on their heinous acts. I hope the Legislature works to quickly pass these bills into law so we can make our communities safer."
Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator said, "These bills give law enforcement more tools to monitor sexual predators and better define illegal drugs, all in the interest of keeping our young people safe, which is the most important thing we do."
Executive Director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association Pete Adams said, "The districts attorneys continue to work closely with the governor and his staff in legislative matters affecting criminal law and procedure. These proposals are an example of this cooperative effort."
Targeting Sex Offender Use of Social Networking Sites
The Governor announced he will pursue legislation authored by Rep. Ledricka Thierry, to criminalize the accessing or using of social networking websites, like Facebook and MySpace, or chat rooms or peer-to-peer networks by certain convicted sex offenders.
Governor Jindal said, "The virtual world has become a place that gives new tools for sexual predators to use in their efforts to prey on children.
"This legislation will first criminalize the accessing or using of social networking websites, chat rooms or peer-to-peer networks by sex offenders who had a previous felony sex offense conviction that involved or was facilitated by the use of a computer or a device with Internet capability. Second, it criminalizes the contacting of a minor through the use a of a social networking website, chat room, electronic mail, instant messenger or any device with Internet capability by sex offenders who had a previous sex offense against a minor that involved or was facilitated by the use of a computer or device with Internet capability.
"We do not allow sex offenders to enter our playgrounds, daycares, or schools, so we should not allow them to enter our homes through computers. We know that as technology advances, law enforcement is challenged to stay ahead of criminals that will use whatever means available to them to violate our children. This law will give police, investigators and judges another tool to bring these criminals to justice and keep them far away from our kids."
Representative Ledricka Johnson Thierry said, "Sexual predators use social networking sites on a regular basis to cultivate leads for offline conversion of their illegal sexual activities. I am committed to making sure that the state of Louisiana places the necessary provisions on sexual predators to prevent them from making more victims of our children."
Increasing Penalties for Sexually Abusing Physically & Mentally Infirm Victims & Those Over 65
The Governor announced another bill, to be authored by Rep. Bodi White, which will equalize the penalties for sexually abusing physically and mentally infirm victims and people over the age of 65 with the penalties for those who sexually abuse children under the age of 13.
Currently, when a person is convicted of sexual battery or sexual battery of the infirm they can only receive a sentence of up to ten years. However, when a person is convicted of sexual battery and the victim is a child under the age of 13, the minimum sentence in law is 25 years and then the convict must be electronically monitored for the rest of their life. This legislation will amend the sexual battery, second-degree sexual battery, oral sexual battery and molestation of a juvenile statutes to include physically and mentally infirm victims and victims over the age of 65.
Pulling from provisions in current law, the legislation will define physically infirm victims to be paraplegic, quadriplegic or otherwise incapable of preventing the act due to a physical disability. Mentally infirm victims will be defined to have an IQ of 70 or lower, or what is essentially the cognitive ability of an eleven year old.
The Governor said, "It is one of the key duties of a safe society to protect our most vulnerable from the monsters who want to harm them. This bill is another important tool for ensuring justice is done in these cases. This legislation will elevate the crime of abusing some of the most vulnerable people among us to have the same penalty for those who abuse our vulnerable children."
Representative Mack A. "Bodi" White said, "These bills truly stand up for the weak and innocent. When we eventually pass this legislation into law, it will send a clear message to criminals that if you hurt an infirmed citizen, distribute drugs or you prey on our children, we have the legal tools needed to put you away for a long, long time."
Ensuring Compliance with Current Sex Offender Laws
Currently, a sex offender has to get a driver's license or ID card which states "sex offender" on it. They must renew this license and card every year.
Unfortunately, the failure of a sex offender to carry a valid Louisiana license or card with "sex offender" labeled on it is punishable only as a misdemeanor. Also, if they carry counterfeit identification or they alter their license or card in some fashion, this is not currently a violation of their registration requirements.
The Governor said, "We will propose legislation to make it a violation of a sex offender's registration requirements if they fail to get a driver's license or ID card with "sex offender' labeled on it, or if they are in possession of identification that is altered with the intent to defraud, or they are in possession of counterfeit identification. We must let these predators know that they cannot circumvent the law to hide their criminal histories."
Missing and Exploited Children Information
The Governor said he would also pursue legislation, authored by Rep. Kay Katz, which will transfer the Missing and Exploited Children Information Clearinghouse from the Department of Children and Family Services to the Louisiana State Police.
Governor Jindal said, "This move will facilitate the location of our missing children and the apprehension of the awful criminals that exploit the youngest among us. We recently announced a bill to expand the Human Trafficking statutes and this initiative we are announcing today will build on our efforts to create a better, safer Louisiana for our families that keeps these monsters behind bars, where they belong. We must pursue all avenues to protect our kids, and this transfer makes practical sense because the State Police has a greater capacity to locate missing children and use the Fusion Center in bringing them back to safety."
Transferring the Clearinghouse operations to State Police's Fusion Center will also help find children that have simply run away or have gone missing.
Making Dangerous Substances in Synthetic Marijuana and Bath Salts Illegal
The Governor announced he will propose legislation, authored by Rep. Ricky Templet, in the upcoming session to make the dangerous substances in synthetic marijuana and bath salts illegal.
Governor Jindal said, "We all know too well the dangerous effects that so-called "bath salt' drugs are having on our young people -- causing severe mental and physical reactions and even resulting in death. DHH issued an emergency rule to make these drugs illegal and on January 6th added six chemicals marketed as "plant food' or "bath salts' to the list of controlled dangerous substances. That move made these drugs illegal to possess, manufacture or distribute in Louisiana.
"While criminalizing those chemical compounds was important to get them away from our young people, we need to pass this legislation in the upcoming session to ensure that we stay ahead of the drug pushers and criminals who are always looking for the next rendition of a chemical to sell people.
"This law is intended to put criminal chemists and drug dealers out of business. They think they can find loopholes that allow them to just sell their drugs in the light of day, in our convenience stores and on our streets. But we want the word to go out loud and clear with this law that we will shut them down every time. What they are making and selling is illegal, plain and simple. We will not allow these drugs or anything like them in our stores or anywhere near our children.
"As law enforcement officials know, as soon as we move to criminalize one specific chemical drug, drug peddlers work to make a small change to the chemical makeup of the drug in order for it to be legal and to stay on the street -- and in some cases, even the store shelf, posing as a "legal' drug item, "incense' or "bath salts.'"
This law will criminalize base chemical groups of synthetic Cannabinoids and Cathinones, and any manipulation or addition to these base compounds will be criminalized as well. Specifically, it will criminalize synthetic narcotics that are not currently scheduled as a "controlled dangerous substance," and will help to ensure that these drugs stay out of stores, streets and the hands of children.
Representative Ricky Templet said, "The war against crime is an ever-changing battle that requires lawmakers to work on a continuous basis to close the loop holes that have allowed criminals to prey on our communities. These set of bills will update our laws so criminals can't use new drugs to peddle in our streets - nor allow sex predators to interact with our kids online. I applaud the Governor on his work to make Louisiana a safer place."
Rep. Kay Katz said, "When DHH passed rules banning fake bath salts, we saw a tremendous decrease in instances of fake bath salt related injuries. It's real proof that the laws we pass to clean the streets of criminal activity works - and that's something I can support. Whatever we can do to better find missing children, stop sex predators from having access to our children and keeping harmful drugs off the streets, I'll work hard to make sure each one of these bills are passed."