The new juvenile sex offender laws in the state of Nevada, as laid out in Assembly Bill 579, are so Byzantine and so poorly worded that when a case landed in family court last week, the Las Vegas Sun reports, “the district attorney, who is fighting for stricter legislation, and the public defender, who is fighting against it, each incorrectly interpreted what was considered one of the most problematic aspects: a rule that juvenile sex offenders couldn’t live within 1,000 feet or be within 500 feet of any structure designed for use primarily by children.”
Turns out they can.
It also seems that high-risk juvenile sex offenders in Nevada are not required to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. In fact, they can petition for removal from sex offender websites after twenty-five years. So why did the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada sue to protect a right these young offenders already had? The reason, again, is that the laws–and, specifically, the “tiers” of severity they delineate–are not clearly understood, even by attorneys who have read the fifty-page legislation.
Laws that are too vague are unconstitutional, the Sun explains, and it is on these grounds that the sex offender laws in Nevada–themselves drawn from the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which President Bush signed into law in 2006–are being challenged. As the Sun explains, Susan Roske, the public defender who filed the case in family court, charges that “if she couldn’t understand the laws, and still disagrees with the district attorney about certain aspects of the laws, then the laws could be arbitrarily enforced, depending on the person doing the enforcing and that person’s take on the legal jargon.” Maggie McLetchie, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Nevada, adds, “The laws are, in their entirety, a confusing morass.”
Deputy District Attorney Jonathan VanBoskerck, however, shrugs off these concerns. “I made the same mistake reading the bill draft, but lo and behold, a little reflection, a little time, (and) we all pretty much agree (certain regulations) don’t apply,” he said.
Attorneys presented their arguments last week, the paper reports. Family Court Judge William Voy is expected to hand down his decision tomorrow. Let’s hope his ruling is clear and unequivocal and compassionate.