Today, Governor Bobby Jindal stood with law enforcement officials to highlight five new laws that were part of the Governor's 2011 Legislative Package and will help crack down on sex offenders, locate missing children and protect the disabled and elderly.
Governor Jindal held a ceremonial bill signing for the new laws, including HB 49 by Rep. Leger, which expands the human trafficking statutes; HB 55 by Rep. Thierry which criminalizes the accessing or using of social networking websites, chat rooms and peer-to-peer networks by certain registered sex offenders; HB 86 by Rep. White, which enhances the penalties for sexually abusing a person with a physical or mental disability or a person over the age of 65; HB 94 by Rep. Katz, which transfers the Missing and Exploited Children Information Clearinghouse from DCFS to the Office of State Police; and HB 131 by Rep. Templet, which ensures sex offenders do not circumvent their registration requirements.
Governor Jindal said, "One of my top objectives as Governor and as a father of three young kids is to make Louisiana the safest place in the country to raise a family. For more than three years now, we have worked to protect our Louisiana communities by passing some of the toughest laws on those who seek to harm our kids -- whether they are common criminals, sex offenders or drug dealers. I want the message from these five new laws to be clear -- if you want to prey on a kid, if you want to harm a child, you do not want to do it here in Louisiana. Here, our laws are tough, our justice is swift and our penalties are strong."
La. State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said, "We have a responsibility to protect our children at all costs. It is a priority for our Governor; it is a priority for the Louisiana State Police; and it is a priority for our public safety partners. Since launching Operation Child Watch in 2008, Louisiana law enforcement has worked tirelessly to identify and arrest those individuals who prey on our children. We have also partnered to ensure that sex offenders are compliant with registration requirements. These new laws provide us the tools to be successful and effective in our efforts as we ensure the safety of Louisiana's citizens."
Louisiana Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Ranatza said, "The Louisiana Sheriffs remain committed to protecting our children by working with our elected officials, our law enforcement partners and the communities we serve. We must work collectively to ensure the safety of our children against any and all persons who seek to victimize them. These laws provide us additional tools to do just that."
Bossier Parish Sheriff Larry Dean said, "As chief law enforcement officer of the parish of Bossier, my primary concern is the safety of all citizens, in particular those that are more vulnerable to crime, like our innocent children and elderly. I applaud the Governor as he signs these bills into law today."
Hugo Holland with the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office said, "We worked closely with the Governor's staff throughout the legislative process on these bills. They are great examples of how our offices work together to develop policies that protect our children and make our communities safer."
HB 49 by Rep. Leger cracks down on the growing crime of human trafficking. Currently, human trafficking statutes criminalize the actions of the human trafficker, but they do not address a person who knowingly facilitates the crime. This new law will equalize the punishment for the person who helps the human trafficker with the punishment for the person who is actually engaged in the human trafficking. This new law will also expand the type of actions that will put a criminal under the provisions of the human trafficking statutes.
Governor Jindal said, "We are targeting monsters that post advertisements or listings of children for sexual services on the internet. Just earlier this year, a man was arrested for trafficking a 15-year-old girl in a hotel in Baton Rouge. He had placed an advertisement online selling her for sex. We must put an end to this horrific crime. Criminals are using the internet to expand the reach of their crime, facilitate their criminal enterprise and commercially sexually exploit our children. We will stop this from happening and this new law is a step in the right direction."
Rep. Leger said, "Protecting the citizens of Louisiana is of paramount importance. While the perpetration of the crime of human trafficking continues to increase, it remains all too often unreported. The passage of HB 49 makes it easier to prosecute both the criminals that commit these heinous acts, and those who assist them in avoiding prosecution. Most importantly, it sends a clear message that these crimes will not be tolerated in Louisiana."
HB 55 by Rep. Thierry criminalizes sex offenders from accessing or using social networking websites, like Facebook and MySpace, chat rooms and peer-to-peer networks. The offenders restricted by this law include those who were previously convicted of indecent behavior with juveniles, pornography involving juveniles, computer-aided solicitation of a minor, video voyeurism or those who were previously convicted of a sex offense in which the victim was a minor.
Governor Jindal said, "The virtual world has become a vast place that makes it easy for sex offenders to anonymously prey on our kids. We must take this tool away from them every chance we get. We know that as technology advances, law enforcement is challenged to stay ahead of criminals who will use whatever means available to violate our children. This law will give law enforcement officials another tool to bring these criminals to justice and keep them away from our kids."
Rep. Thierry said, "With greater technology comes its good and bad parts, which unfortunately means sexual predators have access to new tools like Facebook allowing them to easily interact with our kids. This legislation ensures that if you are convicted of a sex offense against a minor in Louisiana -- then you will never use social networking sites, period. This legislation gives another important tool to our law enforcement officials so they are more able to protect our communities."
HB 86 by Rep. White equalizes the penalties for sexually abusing people over the age of 65 and people with a physical or mental disability 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 is 25 years.
Governor Jindal said, "This new law will elevate the crime of abusing some of the most vulnerable people among us to have the same penalty for those who abuse our children. It is one of the key duties of a safe society to protect our most vulnerable citizens from the monsters who want to harm them. And this bill is another important tool to ensure justice is done in these cases."
Rep. Bodi White said, "In Louisiana, if you sexually abuse a person with a disability or a person over the age of 65, then you should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. We must protect the most vulnerable people among us, and this bill is aimed at ensuring justice is done in such horrible cases."
HB 94 by Rep. Katz transfers the Missing and Exploited Children Information Clearinghouse from the Department of Children and Family Services to the Office of State Police. The Missing and Exploited Children Information Clearinghouse maintains a database on all reports of missing children from parents, law enforcement, other state clearinghouses and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The information is disseminated to law enforcement agencies within Louisiana and to other states.
Rep. Katz said, "I was proud to work with Gov. Jindal in passing HB 94, which transfers the missing and exploited child database to State Police. With the resources and coordination of the State Police, we'll have much better odds at tracking down missing children."
A total of 39 other states have their clearinghouses within the State Police. This new law will transfer the clearinghouse to the State Police in order to provide real-time, 24-hour updates for Louisiana children entered into the Missing and Exploited Children Information database.
The State Police also have access to the National Crime Information Center, which provides a profile of criminals involved in exploiting children -- including human traffickers that travel the country, often linked to big sporting events or other occasions, to pick up children. This transfer will expand State Police's capacity to locate missing children and get them back safely.
HB 131 by Rep. Templet ensures that sex offenders are complying with their current registration requirements and do not circumvent state law. Currently, a sex offender has to get a driver's license or ID card that states "sex offender" on it, and that must be renewed every year. However, if they carry counterfeit identification, or they alter their license or card in some fashion, then this is not a violation of their registration requirements. This new law will make it a violation of a sex offender's registration if they fail to get a driver's license or ID card with "sex offender" labeled on it, are in possession of identification that is altered with the intent to defraud or if they are in possession of counterfeit identification.
Rep. Templet said, "This legislation will ensure sex offenders comply with their driver's license and identification card registration requirements and not hide from their criminal past."