The State Assembly today overwhelmingly approved legislation by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) that would crack down on convicted sex offenders who remove or disable their GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking devices.
“I thank Assembly Democrats and Republicans for their overwhelming bipartisan support to protect our state from sex offenders who tamper or remove their GPS devices,” said Bates. “I hope today’s vote will help convince Governor Brown to sign my bill into law.”
SB 722 would address the increasing number of high-risk sex offender parolees who willfully remove or disable their GPS devices. According to the State Board of Parole Hearings, “the number of new GPS violation charges for sex offender parolees initiated prior to serving time in custody – in other words, new charges that occurred when they should have been serving time for an earlier violation – has increased after realignment from 99 cases in the 15 months prior to realignment to 495 cases in the 15 months following the start date of realignment.” Approved by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011, realignment provided for the shifting of thousands of inmates from state prison to already crowded county jails.
A killing spree in Orange County that left at least four women dead demonstrated the need for stronger penalties for removal of a GPS device. In 2012, Franc Cano and Steve Gordon, who were on release from state prison for prior convictions of child molestation, cut off their state-mandated GPS ankle bracelets and left California by bus. By the time police caught up to the pair, the penalties they received for removing the devices were minor. One was sentenced to ten months in prison and the other received just eight months. After their release, four women went missing and the two men were arrested for their murders.
SB 722 would apply to sex offenders convicted of the most egregious sex crimes, including rape, spousal rape, and continuous sexual abuse of a child. Had SB 722 been in effect, the Orange County suspects would have faced up to three years in state prison for cutting off their devices, possibly changing the course of subsequent events.
SB 722 is supported by groups and individuals such as the California State Sheriffs’ Association, the California District Attorneys Association, Crime Victims United of California, the Peace Officers Research Association of California, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, the Orange County Board of Supervisors, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore.
The Assembly incorporated a minor amendment to SB 722 that does not change the essence of the bill. After expected Senate approval of the Assembly’s amendment, SB 722 will go to Governor Brown for his consideration. The Senate previously approved the bill on a unanimous vote on June 2.