Sexual violence is one of biggest social issues in America and it impacts every community across the nation. Even after the enactment of various federal and state protections such as the Adam Walsh Child Protection Safety Act, Jessica’s Law, and Megan’s Law, parents still live in fear that something bad will happen to their children. As was the case in early 2010, when 17 year old Chelsea King was brutally raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender. Her violent death led to the creation of Chelsea’s law.
Who is Chelsea King?
Chelsea King was amazing teenager. She attended high school in San Diego, was a straight A student, athlete and musician. On February 25th 2010, she disappeared after going out jogging. When she did not return home, her parents contacted the police. Several days later, on March 2, 2010, her body was found in a shallow grave in a park. The young high school senior had been raped, strangled and murdered.
The investigation of Chelsea’s death led authorities to John Albert Gardner, a known sex offender. He would ultimately be found guilty of Chelsea’s murder and at least one other teenage girl, Amber Dubois.
The Creation of Chelsea’s Law
For decades, California has had sex offender registration. The first such laws were enacted in 1947 and have evolved over time to consider the complexities of the modern legal system. Federal and state legislatures have enacted a number of laws geared at protecting children from sexual predators. The most well known laws are the Adam Adam Walsh Child Protection Safety Act, Jessica’s Law, and Megan’s Law.
Signed into law on September 9, 2010 by Governor Arnold Swartzenegger, the law was drafted and approved quickly by the California legislature. Taking birth as Assembly Bill 1844, the law was presented by Nathan Fletcher, a San Diego Assemblyman, who had worked closely with Chelsea’s family.
Under Chelsea’s law offenders will be subject to a one-strike provision that would any adult convicted of a violent sex crime against a child to prison for life without parole. Repeat offenders would also be subject to life terms. Child molesters will be subjected to stricter penalties. Those convicted of forcible sex crimes or aggravated assaults on children less than 14 years of age, lifetime parole with GPS tracking will be required. Additional residency and work restrictions will be in place and new risk assessment guidelines will be used to determine whether offenders are still a threat to the more vulnerable citizens.
The Impact of Chelsea’s Law
Chelsea’s Law is not a duplication of other child protection acts. The law applies to assaults and child trafficking and it also considers minors under the age of 18, where other acts and laws generally cover much younger victims.
As a result of Chelsea’s Law, sex offender parolees are subject to tighter restrictions. Lifetime parole and GPS supervision with no possibility of discharge for crimes are among the new legal restraints. Internet and e-mail alerts have been added to the methods in which communities can be notified of sex offender issues in their neighborhoods. Members of online communities, such as Facebook and Twitter, and basic e-mail services can be notified of sex offender parolees, who have violated GPS tracking protocols and who may be in the community unmonitored. Through these online services, the names and images of the parolees are disseminated to the public.
Claiming the largest number of registered sex offenders in the nation, California must maintain a comprehensive database and monitor sex offenders. The unfortunate and tragic losses of youngsters, like Chelsea, Adam, Jessica and Megan, remind parents to take extra special care in safeguarding their children. Time will tell if Chelsea’s law will make neighborhood a bit safer.