Lawmakers in California toughen penalties against violent sex offenders in honor of 17 year-old Chelsea King who was murdered on February 25, 2009 by John Albert Gardner. She was found in a shallow grave less than a week after she was reported missing in an area near where Gardner was staying.
Gardner was a registered sex offender in California at the time he murdered Chelsea King. He had a known history of sexual violence. Ten years earlier, he had been ordered to register as a sex offender for life after he was convicted for the sexual assault of a 13 year-old girl.
Assembly Bill 1844, dubbed Chelsea's Law, passed the Assembly without a dissenting vote last week. It had already been endorsed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and he is expected to sign the bill this week. It will take effect immediately if signed by Schwarzenegger.
Under Chelsea's Law, many alleged sex offenders face much harsher sentencing terms than in current law. Prison sentences would be increased for those convicted of certain sex crimes against minors and the terms would vary depending on the age of the child. Certain sex offenders would face mandatory life sentences for violent attacks and life-long GPS tracking would be required for offenders who commit forcible sex crimes against children under the age of 14 years old.
Although the Assembly Bill is comprised of the best intentions aimed at protecting children, it may also result in the unfair prosecution and mistreatment of alleged offenders who do not pose the same risks as Gardner and similar sex offenders in California. AB 1844 will create a system to assess parolees who pose the greatest risk of reoffending and they will match such parolees with high levels of monitoring and supervision. The creator of such a system poses a dangerous threat to offenders who may not be high risk, but who are classified as such by a group of people who are over-zealous to protect society from anyone convicted of a sex offense against a child.