Tuesday, November 25, 2008

County Attorney appealing ruling that could release some sex offenders from lifetime

Decision could impact up to 300 sex offenders in Maricopa County

County Attorney Andrew Thomas is asking the Arizona Supreme Court to reconsider a decision that revokes lifetime probation for those convicted of preparatory sex crimes such as Attempted Child Molestation that occurred between January 1, 1994 and July 20, 1997. The court recently ruled (State v. Peek, 2008 WL 4762977) that a defendant was improperly sentenced to lifetime probation because the state statutes at the time were not specific enough.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has taken an interest in the case because there are currently 300 sex offenders on lifetime probation in this county that could potentially be affected by the ruling. Additionally, this ruling could release sex offenders who are in prison for violating the terms of their probation.

The office has filed a Motion for Reconsideration which states Arizona lawmakers intended to allow defendants convicted of preparatory sex crimes between 1994 and 1997 to be placed on lifetime probation. The motion states in part:

“When courts construe a statute, the primary goal is to fulfill the intent of the legislature that wrote it. Reviewing courts must consider the statutory scheme as a whole. The court must give meaning to every word, phrase, clause and sentence of the statute and presume the legislature does not include provisions that are void, inert, trivial, superfluous, or contradictory. ”

If the Arizona Supreme Court rejects the motion, the County Attorney’s Office is asking that the high court set some ground rules and clarify that this ruling is limited only to defendants who have properly presented a timely petition for post conviction relief.

While on lifetime probation most sex offenders are subject to terms that include no contact with anyone under 18, no contact with victims, and a prohibition against going near locations primarily used by children such as schools and daycare centers. This ruling could end those terms for dozens of defendants.

Thomas stated, “I respectfully ask the Arizona Supreme Court to reconsider its decision and look again at the original intent of state lawmakers.”

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