CHARLESTON – Two strong measures promoting greater public safety and child protection cleared the legislative interim process that ended Tuesday and will be introduced during the 2011 legislative session with a recommendation from the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee that they become law. The legislation is sponsored by State Senator Evan Jenkins (D-Cabell) and Delegate Kelli Sobonya (R-Cabell) who both served on the Interim committee that endorsed the bills. “Clearing the Interim process with a stamp of approval is a major step in seeing these bills taken up and passed during the 2011 session,” Sobonya said. “Each of these bills has their roots from issues and advocates from our region. Kelli and I serve on the Judiciary Committee in the House and Senate and have been pushing the issues because we feel strongly that they will have a positive effect on public safety and help protect our children,” Jenkins said.
The two bills approved in the Interim process provide the following:
1. Streamlined subpoena process to quickly identify Internet child predators – A special task force within the West Virginia State Police has been very successful in finding and tracking on-line child predators. Unfortunately, the subpoena process needed to access the information from the Internet service providers to identify a name and address of the suspected predator can be slow and varies throughout the state in the different counties. “This bill streamlines the subpoena process so getting the name and location of these sick individuals, whether in Jefferson county or Cabell county, will be fast and uniform,” Jenkins said. “Evan and I have been briefed and seen first hand the tools our state police are using. They say the improved processes allowed in this bill will be a big help to their effort to identify and arrest these child predators,” Sobonya said. “Time is critical. The current patchwork of subpoena processes around the state slows down the identification process. While the state police are spending sometimes days, even weeks, trying to get a subpoena, this person is still out there preying on our children. Getting this bill passed ASAP is critical,” Jenkins said. o Key Contact – Sergeant Christopher M. Casto, West Virginia State Police Digital Forensics Unit Internet Crimes Against Children Unit (304) 293-6400
2. Updating the state code to allow Marshall University’s Forensic Science Program to provide more services. State law put in place in the mid 1990’s that helped start Marshall University’s forensics science program limits the programs ability to provide services through certain types of contracts and agreements. The program offers a broad range of forensic services including the work of analyzing DNA samples from convicted felony offenders that can be used in the investigation of crime scene evidence. “As Marshall’s forensic science program has grown, so to has their ability to offer more services to other state and private entities. This is an effort to bring the code up to date to meet the growth and criminal identification ability of the program, “Jenkins said. "The program’s director, Dr. Fenger, has done a terrific job. He’s identified this current code section as a limitation that needs to be updated,” Sobonya said. o Key Contact – Terry Fenger, PhD., Marshall University Forensic Science Program (304) 690-4373