Senate advances public safety measures

Measures aimed at improving public safety, protecting vulnerable individuals, and punishing convicted criminals have received senate approval in recent days.

Among the measures is “Brittany’s Law,” which would create a registry of convicted violent felons. Senate bill 1850A, which I co-sponsored, establishes a statewide violent felony offender registry by requiring certain convicted felons to register with the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) upon release from prison.

Similar to the state’s sex offender registry, violent felons would be assigned risk levels. Annual registration requirements and corresponding procedural guidelines would be established to allow local law enforcement agencies and the state to monitor the whereabouts of violent felony offenders. The measure would also allow the dissemination of and access to certain information in the database to the public.

“Brittany’s Law” is named for 12-year-old Brittany Passalacqua who was murdered in 2009 along with her mother Helen Buchel in Ontario County. The killer, John Edward Brown, was on parole at the time of the murder. He was released from prison after serving 2 ˝ years of a three-year sentence for assaulting his infant daughter in 2003.

In the wake of these and other violent attacks, it has become clear that we must increase our efforts to further protect the public. “Brittany’s Law” provides law enforcement with a valuable investigative tool in the fight against violent crime, and it also provides important information to communities since violent felony offenders pose a high risk of recidivism once released from custody.

“Brittany’s Law” will help keep communities informed about the whereabouts of individuals with a penchant for violence and help avert future tragedies.

The senate also passed legislation to address the threat posed to the public by “legal” but dangerous drugs. Senate bill 1686 criminalizes the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and “bath salts.”

Synthetic marijuana or “fake pot” are herbs sprayed with chemicals called “synthetic cannabinoids.” These products -- including Spice, K2, Cloud 9 and Black 9 -- have dangerous side effects, including rapid heart rate, tremors, loss of consciousness and hallucinations. “Bath salts,” or “substituted cathinones,” are chemically related to methamphetamines or ecstasy and cause harmful physical and psychological reactions.

A law banning the sale of bath salts was enacted in 2011, and the New York State Department of Health has banned the sale and distribution of synthetic marijuana through an Order for Summary Action. However, possession of these substances, which may be purchased outside the state or via the Internet, continues to be legal.

The bill I supported which passed the senate criminalizes the possession of these products. Penalties for the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and bath salts would be similar to those of marijuana and methamphetamines, respectively. For instance, sale of these substances to a minor, or on or near school grounds, would constitute a class B felony punishable by up to 25 years imprisonment.

In addition to outlawing the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and bath salts, this legislation would establish a statewide Synthetic Cannabinoid and Substituted Cathinone Surrender program. For 90 days following the effective date of the law, the program would allow individuals to voluntarily turn over any products containing synthetic cannabinoids and substituted cathinones at designated locations throughout the state.

A state database would also be created and available on the New York State Department of Health’s website to provide retailers, law enforcement, and the general public with a listing of trade names, physical descriptions, brand names and images of the various products known to be either synthetic marijuana or bath salts.

A number of horror stories involving the use of these synthetic drugs have been filled the news in recent years. We need to take comprehensive and lasting steps to outlaw these drugs here in New York State and keep them out of the reach of young people.

Senator Seward’s office web site is Like Senator Seward at

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