Sex offender bill will take effect July 1

Published 5:21 pm Friday, May 2, 2014

A new law will take effect July 1 that prohibits registered sex offenders from living on the same property within 300 feet of each other, unless they are related.

Gov. Robert Bentley signed House Bill 556 into law which will keep the 156 registered sex offenders living in Chilton County from living close to one another.

Rep. Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville, sponsored the bill after learning about multiple sex offenders living on 40 County Road 374 off Enterprise Road south of Clanton, in campers behind Triumph Church.

Wallace said he tried to get the first version of the bill passed about two years ago but the bill didn’t make it past the committee meeting stage.

“The original bill was an anti-clustering bill that made everybody separate,” Wallace said. “I think it also met opposition because it was a statewide bill and larger counties like Jefferson and Montgomery would have difficulties in keeping track of sex offenders.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office C.J. Robinson helped write the bill that would focus on local restrictions for sex offenders.

“In a county where we have 600 felonies a year, this is one of the few times that we may have the opportunity to prevent a child from getting to be the victim,” Robinson said. “This may be the only chance as a prosecutor to try to prevent a crime before it happens.”

The law gives the district attorney’s office the authority to file a civil complaint against someone owning or leasing property where more than one unrelated sex offender lives.

Robinson explained the bill gives judges the authority to issue fines from $500-$5,000 per violation.

“This bill is not directly punishing the sex offender himself,” Robinson said. “It is adding restrictions for property owners who allow multiple sex offenders to live in one place.”

Alabama requires sex offenders to notify authorities when they move into a county, and authorities notify nearby residents.

Robinson said he started a chart from August 2010 through October 2013 with 51 sex offenders who live behind Triumph Church.

Investigator Erric Price with the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department said there are currently 10 people living at the same address behind Triumph Church.

“At one time there have not been more than 12 or 14 living at the same address,” Price said. “The living accommodations do not allow for more than that to live there.”

The Rev. Ricky Martin, who declined to comment on the record with his comments regarding the new bill, owns the property at County Road 374.

Price said there is currently only one individual living at the property who is from Chilton County.

“I think a lot of these individuals who have lived at the property at one time or another have left to go back from where they came from,” Price said.

Price said the sheriff’s department has responded to a “few” calls at County Road 374 for minor offenses but nothing to do with sex offender crimes.

“We have gone out there before when someone was drinking at the residence or fighting between a few of the individuals,” Price said. “Mr. Martin is really strict with the people he lets live on the property though. He doesn’t even let them smoke cigarettes. He strictly enforces a lot of his rules.”

Currently, sex offenders living at a residence in the county have to report to Price every three months.

“They have to be living at an address that is no less than 2,000 feet from a school or a daycare,” Price said.

When the law goes into effect in July, Price said there is a possibility some of the sex offenders could become homeless, creating additional work with having individuals on the streets.

“A homeless sex offender is allowed to be homeless, and we have about four or five right now who are,” Price said. “They are required to register every seven days, and they have to tell us which park, bridge or each location they find until they establish a residence. It might create more problems if you have a lot of sex offenders on the street in a short amount of time, but from the sheriff’s office we are supportive of whatever the law says.”

Wallace said having the property at County Road 374 invited individuals, many who have finished prison sentences for rape or other sex crimes, to live together.

“I don’t have a problem with individuals from Chilton County taking care of their own, but when you start bringing in other sex offenders from different states to live together, that is something I have a problem with,” Wallace said. “When you get a group of like-minded individuals living together, it is a recipe for disaster.”