CA Introduces One-Strike Bill for Sex Offenders

Move over Jessica, Megan and Laci. Here comes Chelsea. A bill has been introduced in California mandating life in prison for some first time sex offenders.

On Monday in Sacramento, Kelly and Brent King announced a bill called Chelsea’s Law, named after their daughter. The bill notably includes a “one strike” provision that would allow prosecutors to pursue a life sentence without parole for forcible sex crimes against a minor when there are aggravating circumstances like torture and kidnapping.

Legislation should never be passed out of grief and passion or in response to a singular event, no matter how horrific. Cooler heads are needed when our fundamental liberties are at stake. One size justice is no justice at all.

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    As a general matter, I think this is (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by andgarden on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 10:09:15 AM EST
    a perfectly acceptable punishment for that kind of crime.

    Generally I agree... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 10:18:01 AM EST
    it is the innocents convicted and prosecutors over-charging a suspect to force a plea to lesser charges that I worry about.

    This is better (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 10:32:36 AM EST

    This is better than the civil commitment BS.

    In your opinion (none / 0) (#1)
    by jbindc on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 10:03:40 AM EST
    What IS an acceptable punishment for someone who engages in "forcible sex crimes against a minor when there are aggravating circumstances like torture and kidnapping?"

    This isn't for all cases, but do you think people who do this can really be rehabilitated and released (especiallywhen all credible evidence shows pedophiles can't be "cured"). Does it really seem plausible that a year in jail and a fine is an acceptable punishment? How about 5 years? I know this is a criminal defense site, but I also know that criminal defense attorneys do not think many/most of their clients are innocent babes in the woods.

    Seems to me this punishment  is reserved for those who forcible sex crimes some of the most heinous crimes.  If I had  a kid and something like this happened to him/her, the person  who did this would pray for LWOP because what I would do to them would be do much more horrible and without the benefit of due process.

    Speaking for me only, of course.

    No you don't (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by me only on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 03:59:44 PM EST
    I speak for me only.

    I think allowing a life sentence... (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 10:21:06 AM EST
    ... as opposed to mandating one, is appropriate to those circumstances. Although I generally agree with your disapproval of bills being named after individual victims.

    Legislation proposed and/or passed (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 10:36:50 AM EST
    due to one event:  sometimes good/sometimes not so good.  A couple whose 20-yr. old daughter didn't return home as expected called 911.  No obligation at that time for law enforcement to take a missing persons report until person had been missing much, much longer.  The couple were the catalyst for a law requiring a much shorter span of time.  

    So, what is the punishment (none / 0) (#7)
    by magster on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 10:38:42 AM EST
    on such a severely punishable crime for an accessory after the fact (say, e.g. a Cardinal)?

    what about drunks who pee on bushes? (none / 0) (#8)
    by beowulf888 on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 12:11:37 PM EST
    Would drunks who pee on bushes get life imprisonment under this bill? Because in CA misdemeanors like this get people put on the sex offender list. And what about teenagers and sexting?

    Proposed legislation per post (none / 0) (#10)
    by oculus on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 12:26:01 PM EST
    wouldn't encompass these scenarios.

    Would it not make getting convictions harder? (none / 0) (#11)
    by MKS on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 01:33:03 PM EST
    Wasn't there a life sentence at one time in a Southern state for rape?  Prosecutors had a hard time getting convictions and lobbied to have the sentence reduced....

    The better tack is to have each conviction for a serious sex crime like this accompanied by some type of civil commitment option...


    Pedophiles are Incurable (none / 0) (#9)
    by Exeter on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 12:24:46 PM EST
    They have recidivism rate that is simply too high to risk letting them out again.

    Oh please (none / 0) (#12)
    by DancingOpossum on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 03:40:48 PM EST
    Here's one study on recidivism rates for sex offenders, broken down by type:

    * Incest offenders ranged between 4 and 10 percent.
    • Rapists ranged between 7 and 35 percent.
    • Child molesters with female victims ranged between 10 and 29 percent.
    • Child molesters with male victims ranged between 13 and 40 percent.
    • Exhibitionists ranged between 41 and 71 percent.


    That hardly sounds "incurable." Except for exhibitionists, and I really can't see anyone quaking and blubbering in fear over a horde of marauding flashers. Although these days, you never know.

    But sure, go ahead and lock them up and throw away the key. That way all the children will be safe forever and nothing bad will ever happen to anyone.


    Rates of recidivism (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 03:44:40 PM EST
    do not equal rates of reoffense.

    Um.... (none / 0) (#14)
    by DancingOpossum on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 03:53:11 PM EST
    ...that's what recidivism means.

    From another article:

    According to statistics over the last forty years, fewer than 40% of sex offenders will reoffend within the next fifteen-to-twenty years. Of course, this figure only reflects sex offenders who have been caught, arrested and convicted of a second sexual offense upon release from prison.

    The factors that predict recidivism among sex offenders are diverse, stemming from both past and current behavioral analyses. For example, sex offenders who committed incest are less likely to reofend than sex offenders who committed extrafamilial rape. However, sex offenders with mental disorders (including sociopathy) are more than ten times more likely to reoffend than sex offenders without such disorders. Other factors can include age, childhood abuse and expression of remorse.

    Essentially, however, it is nearly impossible to predict recidivism among sex offenders with certainty, and it is likewise impossible to completely protect the public at large. Statistics and tests do not take into account the possibility of a false conviction and no one really knows why sex offenders reoffend. It would be easy to believe that sex offenders are all psychopaths or sociopaths, and are therefore better off behind bars, but this is statistically not the case.


    Obviously, the torture/kidnapping thing is a whole different barrel of wax from molestation. I still think we should proceed with extreme caution when ordering the death penalty or LWOP, although I think the latter is appropriate in some cases.


    Seriously. (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 03:56:35 PM EST
    From your quote:
    According to statistics over the last forty years, fewer than 40% of sex offenders will reoffend within the next fifteen-to-twenty years. Of course, this figure only reflects sex offenders who have been caught, arrested and convicted of a second sexual offense upon release from prison.

    Wow... (none / 0) (#21)
    by Exeter on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 09:47:24 PM EST
    ...I guess I got duped. I guess it must be all the news coverage every time there is a pedophile that re-offends. But, as you point out, this is a relatively rare event compared to other criminals.

    Yes, you are duped. (none / 0) (#24)
    by 1980Ford on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 03:01:32 AM EST
    See New Scientist reports low sex offender recidivism. But more specifically to this case, Crime Victims United recruited the Kings as they try to recruit every high profile victim. Who are they? The prison guard union's victim's rights group. If you didn't know all of this, you were duped. What happens is, the prison guard union jumps in while everyone is still in mourning and can't argue without seeming callus, so callus laws, one after the other, get passed though ineffective.That's why the prison guard union jumps in before the accused is even convicted. First three strikes was supposed to save us, then Megan's Law, then Jessica's Law and now Chelsea's Law. The laws struck out. Time to try something that works but the media is too afraid and a little bit understandably too respectful for critical analysis.  

    I agree that cooler heads are needed. (none / 0) (#17)
    by Dr Molly on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 04:20:35 PM EST
    But you can have a cooler head and still believe that when someone intentionally hurts a child, the harshest possible punishment should ensue. I can't think of any other crime that is more abhorrent.

    Here's the problem ... (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Peter G on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 05:25:25 PM EST
    Increasing the possible punishment -- or worse, the mandated punishment -- supposedly makes sense because of its deterrent effect.  But studies do not support the idea that increased severity of penalty increases deterrence.  Rather, what increases deterrence is increased (perceived) risk of getting caught.  Even putting that aside, let's assume the sort of rational violent sex offender who would perform the kind of insane mental calculation that goes, "For my chances of getting caught and then 25 years' imprisonment, I'll risk it.  For LWOP, I won't."  Isn't that the same kind of (imaginary) criminal reasoning that would say -- "If I kidnap and rape the kid, and get caught, I'll face LWOP.  That's the same risk I face, realistically, if I kidnap, rape, and kill the kid.  So I might as well kill him/her and eliminate the state's best witness."  Hence, life sentences for offenses other than murder, but which provide ready opportunities to kill, encourage murder.  In criminology, that's called the problem of over-deterrence.  It's part of why the death penalty for rape was declared unconstitutional in 1977.

    Well.... (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Dr Molly on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 07:24:19 AM EST
    First of all, I would want to see all the studies and statistics to back up the claim that increased punishment does not increase deterrence. I'm not arguing with you, maybe you're right. But in societies that don't punish crimes of this nature, the crimes are more prevalent. So punishment must have some deterrent effect.

    Second, if what you say is accurate - then there would seem to be no way to deter violent sex crimes against children. And then what? Children have the right to be safe, in my opinion.


    I don't see the complexity (none / 0) (#28)
    by Rojas on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 08:46:56 AM EST
    Rather, what increases deterrence is increased (perceived) risk of getting caught.

    When you waste resources on over-incarceration of the few, you compromise your ability to detect the many.

    Jesus (none / 0) (#45)
    by jondee on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 01:32:57 PM EST
    if there IS a deterrent effect, how much worse would this "shining city on a hill" be, and how many more penitentiaries would we have to have, if it wasnt?

    Is if we weren't dangerously close to turning into some post-apocalyptic prison nation as it is..


    The standard of proof needs to (none / 0) (#19)
    by Inspector Gadget on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 05:40:05 PM EST
    be so great that there is absolutely no possible way to convict an innocent person of this crime.

    I disagree (none / 0) (#20)
    by jbindc on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 06:23:07 PM EST
    The standard of proof is already very high - beyond a reasonable doubt.  Why should it be any higher in this particular case?

    Despite the feelings of some on this board - there is not a huge number of truly innocent people bring put in jail.  Is it wrong and unfortunate when it happens?  Yes - but there's no way we could have a functioning criminal justice system if the burden of proof was " beyond ALL doubt",


    1st offense, life in prison (none / 0) (#39)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:51:06 PM EST
    the standard needs to be seriously high. More than one false claim has already put innocent people in prison for crimes that never happened. The high standard of reasonable doubt was not high enough!

    After reading the book (none / 0) (#40)
    by jondee on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:56:08 PM EST
    Adams vs Texas, and trying to wrap one's mind around the unbelievably cavalier attitude the Dallas District Attorney's office had about blatantly railroading a defendant in a high profile capital case, it's hard - for some - not to wonder how of much of an aberration miscarriages like that are.

    when someone intentionally hurts a child? (none / 0) (#25)
    by 1980Ford on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 03:07:36 AM EST
    What do you mean by that? Since sexual abuse is 7-10% of all child abuse, what of the other 90% of the abuse? Do you post similar comments to all of those cases? For example, more women, usually mothers, kill more young children than sex offenders do. Are you as outraged? Why or why not?

    Give me a break. (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Dr Molly on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 07:21:13 AM EST
    Yes, I'm outraged at all child abuse, at any willful hurtful act perpetrated on a child by an adult. There is nothing in my comment that would indicate otherwise.

    Speaking of breaking... (none / 0) (#31)
    by 1980Ford on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 11:56:32 AM EST
    Do you support a one-strike law and LWOP for someone who breaks a child's arm? Do you support Schumer's child abuse registry? Have you argued in favor of these anywhere?

    Your commenting tactics (none / 0) (#38)
    by Dr Molly on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:49:58 PM EST
    are juvenile and uninteresting to me. Anyone can play that game. Like this for example:

    Do you think children should be freely used for sexual convenience?

    Why are you against protecting children from violence?

    Have you ever supported sexual predators?

    Have you made any comments elsewhere regarding your love of child abuse?


    See what I mean? Uninteresting, stupid and unproductive.


    That means no (none / 0) (#46)
    by 1980Ford on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 07:32:15 PM EST
    Obviously, by "harm to children" you mean one thing. Just say so and be done with it.

    People are "outraged" (none / 0) (#44)
    by jondee on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 01:13:42 PM EST
    they're just more outraged by outrageous concepts like paid maternity leave; making sure overwhelmed parents have a powerful, humane support system; making sure children - and their parents - have the kind of neighborhoods in which parents dont have to worry about what might happen if they let their children play outdoors.

    Better to let Halliburton, Ahmad Chalabai and Goldman Sachs rob the public teasury..THATS the American way..

    Plus a lot of those abused children will have a nice, roomy penitentiary waiting for them themselves some day, because "throwing money at the problem" never solved anything.  


    allow prosecutors to pursue a life sentence (none / 0) (#22)
    by diogenes on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 09:53:38 PM EST
    The way you word this, the person doing the sentencing (jury or judge) would still have discretion; the minimum sentence would be 25 years, with potential for life, which is not one size fits all.
    Enlightened Democratic governors would of course have the discretion to commute as many of these sentences as they want if they really believe that they have no effect on future crime.  This would be a nice study; we could see if any of the people released with commuted sentences commit future crimes (which they would not have committed if they would have still been in prison).  

    Here we go again... (none / 0) (#23)
    by JamesTX on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:30:00 AM EST
    The progressive movement is over. This is their core value. Extreme and hateful lashing out at the society in reaction to isolated cases. This is what they do. One size, and then spread it to all. If they can get us to agree it's a good idea for the worst cases, then maybe it would help with the second worst, then third, and on from there. The fascists are back!

    Yup (none / 0) (#29)
    by DancingOpossum on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 11:19:13 AM EST
    As Ford1980 notes, it's long been found that the possibility of being caught is a much sronger deterrent, regardless of the sentence, than harshness of punishment. That's well-established in studies of criminology -- no time now but yes, I can post articles/links later.  

    Slightly OT but here's a roundup from the National Institute of Justice on what works and what doesn't to prevent/deter crime. Some of it surprised me:


    Also... (none / 0) (#30)
    by DancingOpossum on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 11:22:28 AM EST
    in societies that don't punish crimes of this nature, the crimes are more prevalent.

    What societies don't punish the murder of children?

    So punishment must have some deterrent effect.

    Of course it does. The three prongs are certainty, severity, and "celerity" (swiftness) of punishment. Where researchers argue is over the weight of severity almost all agree that certainty is the most important factor, where they disagree is whether severity is almost irrelevant or whether it can bolster the deterrent effect of certainty if it's harsher.

    You gotta think (none / 0) (#32)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 11:57:23 AM EST
    the number of Australians who would consider smuggling drugs into Indonesia has dropped significantly after the Schapelle Corby case, no?

    20 effing years.

    It would certainly give me pause.

    If it were merely a $100 fine? Not so much pause...


    Riiight (none / 0) (#33)
    by squeaky on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:10:53 PM EST
    Just like the draconian drug laws have stopped drugs from entering this country.

    And from what I understand getting drugs in Bali is no problem.


    So if our drug laws were punishable (none / 0) (#34)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:14:12 PM EST
    by a mere slap on the wrist, there would be no increase in the number of people breaking our drug laws?



    Sarcasm, (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by Peter G on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:23:37 PM EST
    like conventional wisdom, is no substitute for research-based knowledge.  Sometimes, from scientific investigation, were learn surprising things are true that "common sense" doesn't anticipate.  What deters appears to be one of those, as Opposum clearly and accurate summarizes, based on decades and decades of consistently replicated research results.

    But I like sarcasm, (none / 0) (#41)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:58:30 PM EST
    especially when it makes a valid point.

    Deterrence is complicated, especially when the comparison is between a stiff punishment v. a stiffer punishment.

    However the relationship between punishment and deterrence is much greater when the comparison is between a stiff punishment and little to no punishment.

    If speeding suddenly became a crime punishable by death, and all other factors remained the same, only those people who are more lemming than sentient being (or those with an agenda, like Beccaria and Betham) would posit that there would be no affect on the number of those who speed.

    Additionally, the more often people are reminded of the illegality of something and the more often they are made aware of the punishment they may receive by breaking a law - both of which are accomplished by keeping the issue alive, ie., in many cases by passing new and harsher penalties which makes the news, blogs, etc. - the more people think twice about breaking that law.

    Is severity of punishment as strong a deterrent as certainty and celerity? No, that does not seem to be the case, but that does not mean it is no deterrent at all.

    Witness the convicted sex offender in Oakland convicted of possessing child pron who's now brazenly breaking the law by living across the street from Wildwood Elementary School. Because, you see, there is no punishment for breaking that law.

    The main point here as that the bumper sticker-depth comment "severity of punishment has no affect on deterrence" is untrue. But it does serve certain agendas.


    Actually (none / 0) (#36)
    by squeaky on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:24:59 PM EST
    If there were no drug laws, drug use would more than likely go down. Eliminating drug laws would come before a slap on the wrist approach, imo.  

    Drug abuse is not a criminal problem but a medical one.

    And as long as it is profitable, business people will sell drugs, despite them being illegal.

    And quite frankly, I would not be one bit surprised if the police were deeply involved with the drug trade in Indonesia, as opposed to stopping it. This report suggests it to be true:

    It was also reported that at least 19 police officers were arrested for alleged implication in various drug-related cases. Meanwhile, data from the National Narcotics Agency shows that, during the January-November period last year, more than 35,000 suspects were arrested for alleged involvement in 28,382 drugs cases nationwide.

    And as far as your theory goes, these people did not get the memo:

    According to Bambang the police had prepared a new measure to stamp out drug offenses, but refused to go into details of the police's new measure.

    Customs and officers at Jakarta's international airport have arrested dozens of foreigners who attempted to smuggle drugs into the country over the past few months.

    and none of it proves my thesis wrong.

    20 million (none / 0) (#37)
    by jondee on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:42:29 PM EST
    has been known to make a few people forget about 20 years like the summer wind..

    Though, there's no doubt most people involved in those enterprises factor the threat of draconian sentences in there somewhere.


    Indeed. (none / 0) (#43)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 01:04:33 PM EST