Jul 22, 2019

Law punishes sex offenders who cut GPS devices

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new bill on Oct. 12 that requires sex offenders to spend 180 days in jail for tampering with the GPS device they are fitted with before they are released on parole.

The news came a few days after the arrest of local sex offender Fidel Tafoya, who was suspected of committing sexual battery against a female Fresno State student Oct. 7 in the Henry Madden Library.

A known sexual predator to the campus and police, Tafoya disarmed his monitoring device and made his way into the public area of the library. About 8 p.m. he is suspected touching a female student inappropriately.

Almost 24 hours later, campus police officers and state parole agents arrested Tafoya in Downtown Fresno.

Tafoya was on parole for a crime he committed at Fresno State last year. On Nov. 12, he was arrested following accusations from another female student that he had inappropriately touched her in the library.

The sex offender bill, SB 57, was introduced by state Sen. Ted Lieu who said there is documented proof of an increase in the reported cases of offenders removing their GPS devices.

The use of such devices has been required since 2006. However, Lieu said in a statement about the bill that he felt it was time to take the law to the next level.  He said these offenders know that there is little to no serious consequences for tampering with the devices.

“Some people don’t care – ‘Oh, you want me to go to jail for another 90 days? I don’t care,’” said Dr. Bernadette Muscat, the chair of the criminology department at Fresno State.

There is limited information available regarding SB 57, but this law is better than no law, Muscat said.

She called attention to the fact that while offenders who tamper with their GPS devices will serve 180 days, that doesn’t mean they won’t stay longer. The offender cannot be incarcerated for longer than the law establishes, but there is the issue of a separate crime to be prosecuted for, she said.

This means the time an offender is incarcerated really depends on if they are charged for an additional crime that they could have committed after they disarmed the device.

Even an hour is a lot of time to do something, Muscat said of such offenders like Tafoya.

Muscat believes that having more protection in place is beneficial, especially to the victims of sexual crimes.

She also acknowledged that it’s hard to properly monitor people because nobody, “looks like a sexual predator.”

“That’s not the kind of environment we live in, and we don’t have that kind of system. There’s not very many crimes where someone stays forever,” Muscat said.

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