UPDATE: The bill passed on the Senate floor unanimously as amended, with several Senators asking to be made co-authors of the legislation.
In an attempt to protect victims of sexual abuse, Carly’s Law, SB 2009 has been filed in the Mississippi Senate. Submitted by Senator Kevin Blackwell, the bill would automatically prohibit sex offenders from making contact with those who they have abused.
Currently, prohibiting contact is left up to the judge; it can be placed into a court order and can often be left up to chance. If passed, prohibiting contact would be automatic upon conviction and apply to the individual while serving time and upon their release.
Senator Brice Wiggins, Chair of Judiciary B, presented the bill to the committee on behalf of Sen. Blackwell.
The bill reads:
“Except as otherwise provided in this section, it is unlawful for a person required to register as a sex offender under Section 45-33-25 to do or commit any of the following actions with respect to the victim of the offense triggering the duty to register under this chapter: (a) Threaten, visit, assault, molest, abuse, injure, or otherwise interfere with the victim; (b) Follow the victim, including at the victim’s workplace; (c) Harass the victim; (d) Contact the victim by telephone, written communication, or electronic means;”
“In Senator Blackwell’s case he had a constituent in which a minor child was molested by her grandfather. He served time and continued to contact her,” said Wiggins. “In attempting to try and prohibit that they realized the language had not been put into the order.”
Sen. Wiggins said he often experienced similar situations when serving in the District Attorney’s office in Jackson County. He said in one instance a soccer coach continued reaching out to his player while serving time in prison for abuse. Carly’s Law would make that attempt at contact a separate crime.
Due to the nature of these crimes, many of the children who are victims do not identify themselves as victims and can often think that the relationship they have with their predator is normal.
“Many times, these sex offenders with the minor children groom them. The children are too young to understand and a lot of times the victims have other trouble in their life and are looking for something,” said Wiggins. He added that it is not uncommon for these abuses to be inflicted by a family member.
He noted that part of the problem is many victims, due to their age and mental anguish, will attempt to reach out to their abuser. If they did reach out and were charged, the bill would allow for an affirmative defense that this was consensual contact.
The bill also allows for the judge to waive the mandatory provision.
Sen. Wiggins said the bill was well received in committee and passed overwhelmingly. Some discussion surrounded as to whether parents should even be allowed to wave the provision, but the committee ultimately decided the bill was good as submitted.