The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

Criminal Law Newsletter April 2018

The following is a compendium of news reports over the past month that may be of interest to our AG offices who are involved with criminal law issues. Neither the National Association of Attorneys General nor the National Association of Attorneys General Training & Research Institute expresses a view as to the accuracy of news accounts, nor as to the positions expounded by the authors of the hyperlinked articles. 

A Couple of Questions

A Couple of Questions is an occasional feature of the NAAG Criminal Law Newsletter (CLN), in which two questions are posed to people whose work or position impacts the criminal justice field.

This month we talk to Laura L. Rogers. Director Rogers was sworn in as Director of the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART Office), Office of Justice Programs, United States Department of Justice on January 4, 2018.

CLN: How does the work of the SMART Office intersect with state attorneys generals’ offices?

Director Rogers: The SMART Office provides assistance to all jurisdictions (states, certain tribes, territories and the District of Columbia) with implementation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). The SMART Office works closely with state attorneys general’s offices to provide requested review and input on SORNA compliant legislation, policies and procedures, and to maintain implementation status. Further, the SMART Office works with non-implemented states to move closer toward implementation to avoid a penalty to Edward Byrne/Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne/JAG) funding. The SMART Office is committed to working with all state attorneys general’s offices to create a comprehensive sex offender registration and notification scheme across the country to better track and monitor convicted sex offenders and protect citizens.

CLN: What changes have occurred with SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) since its initial enactment that might not be known to AG offices?

Director Rogers: Currently 18 states, 132 tribes and four territories have substantially implemented SORNA. It’s important to note that, just because a jurisdiction has not yet substantially implemented, does not mean that they are not working toward SORNA implementation. Most states are meeting the majority of SORNA’s requirements, particularly related to information sharing within and between jurisdictions. Almost all states and territories have received significant funding through our Adam Walsh Act Implementation Grant Program. Additionally, many non-implemented states have been applying for a reallocation of their SORNA penalized Byrne/JAG funds each year, with the commitment to work toward implementation.

Important changes since the Act’s passage include the adoption of National Guidelines and Supplemental Guidelines. The National Guidelines helped interpret the Act and clarified its standards. The first Supplemental Guidelines created reporting requirements for international travel and allowed more flexibility around juvenile notification. They also clarified the SMART Office’s role in ensuring ongoing implementation of SORNA. The second Supplemental Guideline allows the SMART Office to take a broader view of a jurisdiction’s system for registering and managing juveniles adjudicated delinquent of sex offenses; namely the SMART Office may approve schemes that allow for a discretionary approach to registering juveniles, along with comprehensive supervision and treatment programming. Additionally, passage of the International Megan’s Law and the Military Sex Offender Reporting Act have created new obligations, allowing for additional domestic and international tracking of registered sex offenders.

Legislation

On April 11, 2018, President Trump signed into law the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” (‘FOSTA’). This act enables prosecutors to pursue websites that advertise prostitution and illegal sexual acts with victims of human trafficking. It provides for punishment of up to10 years, a fine or both on traffickers using interactive computer services. The act also increases the punishment for facilitating the prostitution of five or more persons and recklessly causing sex trafficking by establishing a fine or imprisonment of no more than 25 years or both. Additionally, states may bring federal civil actions to enforce federal sex trafficking violations.

The “Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law” was passed by the Pennsylvania Senate on April 18th. The bill will now go to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The Pennsylvania Senate created the bill in the aftermath of the death of Timothy J. Piazza, who died in 2017 as a result of a ritual created by his fraternity brothers. This bill will amend the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes by adding a chapter punishing the offense of hazing, aggravated hazing, and organizational hazing. The new bill creates tiers of hazing offenses, including hazing as a third-degree misdemeanor if it results in or may result in bodily injury to the minor or student, and a third degree felony if it results in serious bodily injury or death. The bill also requires schools to produce annual institutional reports on antihazing violations.

The Massachusetts legislature passed “An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform” signed by Governor Baker on April 13, 2018. It eliminates some mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses. The act also permits the expungement of records for those up to the age of 21 and for anyone who has a criminal record for a crime that is no longer considered illegal. This act, however, takes a harder line toward drug dealers who sell fentanyl by establishing sentencing minimums of three and one-half years for the trafficking of tengrams or more of fentanyl or any derivative or mixture of fentanyl.

Items of Interest

In 2016 a ten-year-old boy, Caleb Schwab, son of Rep. Scott Schwab, was killed at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas. Now, multiple people have been indicted by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office for criminal conduct which led to the boy’s death. Two of the designers of the massive waterslide are now facing second-degree murder charges. The construction company involved in designing and building the slide was also charged with reckless second-degree murder. The park's former director of operations and the water park itself were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Trial is set for September for the defendants. The indictments can be found below.

The recently released 2017 Indicators of School Crime and Safety Report provides various statistics regarding problems such as illegal substances, weapons, violent deaths, and fights in school. For example, in 2015, approximately 22 percent of students in grades 9-12 reported using marijuana at least once in the past 30 days, which is an 18 percent increase from 1993. However, the number of students ages 12-18 who reported they had access to a loaded gun without adult permission, either at school or away from school, dropped from seven percent in 2007 to 4 percent in 2015. In 2015, a higher percentage of 9th graders than other grades (10th -12th) reported being in physical fights during the past 12 months, on or off school property.

The United States Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) recently issued a report entitled, “Mass Attacks in Public Spaces – 2017.” Between January and December 2017, there were 28 incidents of mass attacks in the United States. 147 people lost their lives and nearly 700 people were injured due to the attacks. NTAC examined the 28 incidents as well as the attackers. Over three-quarters of the attackers made concerning communications and/or elicited concern from others prior to carrying out their attacks and nearly half were motivated by a personal grievance related to a workplace, domestic, or other issue. Of the attackers, 71% had prior brushes with the law beyond minor traffic infractions.

US DOJ News

On March 23, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice is proposing to amend the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. This amendment will clarify the definition of “machinegun” and to expand that definition to include bump stocks devices.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced two Department of Justice projects at the International Association for Identification’s conference. The DOJ continues its efforts to better its forensic science programs. This program seeks to standardize language in latent fingerprint reports and testimony that department examiners may use and what assertions they may not make in criminal proceedings. Examiners are not allowed to “use the expressions ‘reasonable degree of scientific certainty,’ ‘reasonable scientific certainty,’ or similar assertions of reasonable certainty as a description of the confidence held in his or her conclusion in either reports or testimony unless required to do so by a judge or applicable law.”

The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Association of Attorneys General nor of the National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute.


Andy Wright is the Editor of the Criminal Law Newsletter and may be reached at 202-326-6257.The Criminal Law Newsletter is a publication of the National Association of Attorneys General. Any use and/or copies of this newsletter in whole or part must include the customary bibliographic citation. NAAG retains copyright and all other intellectual property rights in the material presented in this publication. For content submissions or to contact the editor directly, please e-mail awright@naag.org.

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