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Montana sex offenders face new set of restrictions - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Montana sex offenders face new set of restrictions

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There are 172 sexual or violent offenders that are noncompliant (Montana Department of Justice image) There are 172 sexual or violent offenders that are noncompliant (Montana Department of Justice image)

BILLINGS - Montana sex offenders' online and geographic freedoms could soon become more restricted.

Two bills in the state House sponsored by Billings Representatives, House Bill 88 and House Bill 219, take aim at the growing list of 2,271 sex offenders in the state.

The existing law requires sexual offenders to register his or her name, address, and phone number with the county at least once a year.

There are more than 400 sexual offenders in Yellowstone County.

HB 88, which was signed into law by Gov. Steve Bullock on March 24, states that offenders must now provide to the registry all email and social media accounts.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Justice, one in 25 teens is sexually solicited by a person who attempts to meet offline after making contact online.

Supporters of this new law, sponsored by Rep. Sarah Laszloffy (R-Billings), say this new requirement could help detectives keep a watch on sex offenders' online activity and interactions.

HB 88 also requires any out-of-state sexual offender to undergo a psychosexual evaluation to determine a risk level upon moving to Montana.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Essman (R-Billings) to restrict where sexual offenders may reside, work, or travel passed in the House and was referred to the Senate committee Wednesday.

HB 219 creates geographic restrictions for Tier III sexual offenders, a designation for the most high-risk offenders.

The bill states that a Tier III sexual offender would be prohibited by law from establishing residency within 300 feet of a school, day care center, playground, park, or any facility that primarily serves minors.

The sexual offender would also not be able to live in the same home as a minor unless the offender was the primary care giver of the minor.

This bill is not retroactive, meaning offenders who already lived near or with a minor would not be forced to move.

A sexual offender who is not compliant could face a felony charge.

HB 219 is an amended version of a bill Essman sponsored in 2011 that would place geographic restrictions on all sexual offenders, but that bill died in committee.

Those in support of HB 219 say it will help protect children from sexual predators.

Civil rights groups have previously argued it imposes upon the rights of sexual offenders who have not committed crimes against children.

A hearing has not been set for the bill.

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