Convicted sex offenders must register with police

By Marley Shebala
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, April 26, 2012

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All convicted sex offenders living, working or going to school on the Navajo Reservation must register with the Navajo Nation police, thanks to passage of the Navajo Nation Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2012 during last week's spring Council session.

The new law requires the police to notify communities of the presence of convicted sex offenders by maintaining a public website and other means.

Each of the seven police districts will maintain a website with localized information on it, including photos and other data for each person on the list.

Currently the states and counties offer websites where people can sort by community to find convicted sex offenders currently in their area.

"This law is to let our communities know about a convicted sex offender in the community so our young kids and victims will be protected," said Council Delegate Alton Shepherd who sponsored the bill.

All the members of the Council's Law and Order Committee signed on as co-sponsors. Shepherd serves as the committee vice chairman.

Crownpoint District Criminal Investigations Capt. Robert Platero, who helped Shepherd present the legislation to the Council, said the law has two primary purposes: it documents convicted sex offenders within the boundaries of the reservation and it notifies the public so people can protect themselves.

Platero, who served on the tribe's Sex Offender Registration and Notification Task Force, noted that the federal Adam Walsh Act allows tribes to register all convicted sex offenders within their jurisdiction.

He said the new law expands on the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act approved by the Council in 2006, which handed the registration responsibility to the tribal police. Amendments to the Adam Walsh Act require the tribe, as well as states and counties, to pass registration and notification laws that mirror the federal system.

Among the federal amendments is a requirement for counties, states and tribes to collect DNA from convicted sex offenders, which is then forwarded for archiving in the national Combined DNA Index System or CODIS, Platero explained.

According to Platero, the website should include the name, address, photograph, risk level, offense or offenses, and convicting jurisdiction for each registered offender.

The registration law applies to all sex offenders whether convicted in tribal, state, federal or foreign court.

The law authorizes tribal jurisdiction over non-Indian convicted sex offenders, said Assistant Attorney General Regina Holyan.

He or she must register at the closest tribal police district, Holyan said. How often, and for how long, the offender must report their whereabouts depends on the type of offense committed, she added.

The law lists three tiers or categories. Tier 1 is for misdemeanor sex offenses, and people in this category must update their registration once a year for 15 years.

Tier 2 requires re-registration every six months for 25 years.

Tier 3 offenders must update their registration every three months for the rest of their lives.

Platero noted that of the estimated 700 sex offenders on the Navajo Reservation, almost all - 99 percent - were convicted in state or federal court.

Tribal prosecution rates are low because most sex crimes are felonies and federal jurisdiction kicks in then, he said.

The tribal taskforce was created in 2008 to develop legislation addressing the Walsh Act amendments, but it wasn't until February, when the Law and Order Committee called for a report from Platero and Holyan, that the bill to strengthen the tribal law was drafted and introduced.

The Navajo Nation Council approved the bill April 17 by a vote of 18-0.

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