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Jessica legislation goes to governor

The Jessica Lunsford Act requires a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years for sexual assault of a child younger than 12.

By CARRIE JOHNSON
Published April 23, 2005


TALLAHASSEE - The Florida House passed the Jessica Lunsford Act on Friday and sent it to Gov. Jeb Bush, who said he's prepared to sign it into law "as quickly as possible."

"I think it's a good piece of legislation," Bush said.

The act, named for the 9-year-old Homosassa girl abducted and slain in February, requires those convicted of molesting a child younger than 12 to serve a prison sentence of 25 years to life. If offenders are released, they would have to wear electronic monitors for life.

Sex offenders who violate probation would also be required to wear electronic monitors.

The act also makes it a third-degree felony for anyone to knowingly harbor a registered sex offender or predator.

John Couey, a registered sex offender, has been charged with Jessica's murder. He was violating probation at the time of the crime.

The act was first approved by the House on Tuesday. After adding a few amendments, the Senate unanimously passed it Thursday and sent it back to the House for final approval.

The House approved the Senate's changes without debate Friday.

The vote comes less than a week after another sex offender was charged in the abduction and slaying of 13-year-old Sarah Lunde of Ruskin.

The Lunsford Act is expected to cost about $13-million, which the Legislature has already allocated. But it isn't the only tough-on-crime bill being proposed this year, and Bush warned lawmakers not to get carried away without setting aside money for prison beds and guards.

"My one caveat in all of these issues is we make sure we fund the criminal justice budget adequately," Bush said. "Passing laws without funding the consequences of the laws is inappropriate."

Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Carrie Johnson can be reached at 850 224-7263 or cjohnson@sptimes.com

[Last modified April 23, 2005, 00:53:03]


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