Brittany's Law

There is a saying that knowledge is power, and when it comes to information about the dangers that surround us each and every day no truer statement has ever been uttered. That is why I am pleased to announce state senate approval of Brittany’s Law.

Brittany’s Law is named for 12 year old Brittany Passalacqua. In 2009, in Geneva, New York, Brittany and her mother Helen Buchel were murdered in their home by Helen’s boyfriend. It was later learned that the murderer was a violent convicted felon, John Edward Brown, who had been released from prison after serving 2 ½ years of a three year sentence for assaulting his infant daughter. Neither Brittany nor Helen knew of their killer’s violent criminal background, if they had, they would have never associated with him, and they would still be alive today.

The goal of Brittany’s Law is to make sure individuals who have been convicted of a violent felony can’t slip unsuspectingly into a family’s home. Instead, such criminals will be required to register with a statewide violent felony offender registry through the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services.

The violent felony offender registry would be similar to the New York State Sex Offender Registry. Offenders would be required to register once released from prison and must re-register annually. Information about the offenders would be compiled in the database and available to the general public and police agencies. Several other states have already established a violent felony offender registry.

Alerting individuals to a violent criminal’s past is a crucial crime prevention step because many become repeat offenders. A recent study by the University of Wyoming found that individuals under the age of 25 who commit violent crimes have the highest rate of recidivism. The Urban Institute Justice Policy Center based in Washington, DC conducted a study published in 2003 that found nationwide 53% of arrested males and 39% of arrested females are re-incarcerated.

While there some learn from their mistakes and make life corrections, it is clear that many others continue along the same path of violence. In some of these cases, the offender even turns to a higher degree of violence, as was the case with Brittany’s murderer. This further illustrates the need for a violent felony offender registry.

Now, you may be thinking that you have heard about this bill before – and you would be right. The senate has approved this measure with overwhelming bipartisan support on multiple occasions, yet the state assembly has failed to even consider the measure for a vote. A companion bill has been introduced in the assembly, and I am hopeful that this is the year this measure passes both houses and is sent to the governor.

This is not the first time I have sought stronger laws to protect individuals from violent criminals. In the past I have supported numerous measures to update laws and close loopholes to allow detection and prosecution of sexual offenders, child predators, and the like. As I mentioned, the new registry would be patterned after the New York State Sex Offender Registry, created under Megan’s Law. The landmark legislation has empowered parents and concerned members of the community with the information needed to protect their families from dangerous sexual predators.

I have also fought for, and won approval, of laws to protect our elderly from violent criminals. Thanks to legislation I co-sponsored, New York now has tough penalties to punish anyone who attacks a senior citizen. The law, established in 2008, elevates the assault of a person sixty-five years of age or older when the perpetrator is more than ten years younger than the victim to assault in the second degree, a class D violent felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.

These laws provide important crime-fighting tools, act as deterrents and help make our state safer. I am proud to support them.

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