"Justin Bloxom Bill" heads to LA Senate - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

"Justin Bloxom Bill" heads to LA Senate

Posted: Updated: April 5, 2012 06:33 PM CDT

BATON ROUGE, LA (KSLA) – Louisiana lawmakers are considering a bill aimed at keeping sex offenders out of occupations that put them in the driver's seat and within reach of children. 

State Sen. Sherri Smith Cheek (R-Mansfield) and State Rep. Richard Burford (D-Stonewall) rushed to introduce the bill after the arrest of two-time sex offender Brian Horn, accused in the abduction and murder of 13-year-old Justin Bloxom.  Horn allegedly used posed as a 15-year-old girl and used text messages to lure the boy into his cab.  Bloxom's body was found on along Highway 171 in Stonewall on March 30.

On Tuesday, DeSoto Parish Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee considering SB 780. "This probably is not going to stop a sexual predator like Brian Horn, Arbuckle says, "but it will give law enforcement tools to actually investigate."   

The "Justin Bloxom Bill" makes it a felony for a registered sex offender to work in a number of occupations that have the potential to put them in contact with children.  Penalties provide for fines of up to $10,000 and five to ten years at hard labor without the possibility of parole for at least three years. 

Sen. Cheek believes the bill has support in both the House and Senate, but admits it's a work in progress.  "Right now you're seeing a team of district attorneys, the Attorney General and law enforcement community going through and trying to make sure we're crafting language that is enforceable."

Caddo Assistant District Attorney Hugo Holland is one of those helping to refine the bill, so that "it's something  that we can use, that it's not an exercise in futility where the court can't strike it down as being unconstitutional or over broad."  Of particular concern, Holland says, is how broadly some of the job descriptions included in the bill could be interpreted. 

Carnival workers and amusement ride operators were included in the original bill, but were removed before it was unanimously passed out of the committee on Tuesday. "What about the guy that owns the lunch wagon that sells hot dogs that happens to have a cooler and have a few ice cream bars in there, and he's selling those to workers at Calumet.  Is that somebody that we want to call an ice cream truck driver, so it's things like that that we want to try to carefully tailor so that we don't cast the net too broadly."

SB 780 still includes workers who go into homes, like air conditioning repair and pest control services.  Once better-defined, ice cream truck drivers and carnival workers could go back in the bill, along with other occupations. "Perhaps some additional employment that these offenders will not be allowed to do," says Sen. Cheek, "Frankly for the protection of the general public, but especially for the protection of minors" 

Holland is also concerned about a provision in the proposed bill that would have made the law retroactive.  "We can't make it a felony for somebody to do that if they already have that job.  It just violates fundamental fairness. So we've got to figure out a way to make sure that the law only applies to the people that attempt to get those jobs in the future, but that we also try to protect the public against people that have convictions and have those jobs now."  Instead, sex offenders who already work in those occupations would be required to post notices on their vehicles. 

Holland says a change in the law that would have required sex offenders to register for life was removed from the bill on Tuesday. Holland says that, too, would have cast too broad a net in encompassing all sex offenders instead of taking the nature and severity of the offense into consideration.  The revised bill could make it to the Senate floor in about two weeks.  Click here for a link to the proposed bill.  

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