Tougher Penalties

Tougher penalties may be on the way for Virginia sex offenders. A Senate committee has unanimously approved a bill that would impose harsher punishments for certain violent sex offenders and strengthen sex offender registry laws.

The legislation would require a mandatory minimum 25-year sentence for first-time sex offenders who commit serious offenses against children younger than 13. Perpetrators of such crimes currently face sentences of five years to life in prison.

The measures would cost more than 33 million dollars by June 30, 2008. The money would pay for additional state police troopers to monitor registered sex offenders. It also would be used to hire extra staff at the Department of Corrections to help administer stricter GPS tracking of offenders and upgrade the current sex offender registry.

The legislation also calls for harsher penalties for those who fail to register and requires a mandatory minimum of three years of electronic monitoring for many post-prison sex offenders. It also expands the list of offenses that qualify as sexually violent.

The bill now moves onto the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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