"JESSICA'S LAW" SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
Mark Lunsford Joins State Leaders for Ceremonial Signing Ceremony at Texas Capitol
(Austin) -- A bill which will enact some of the harshest punishments in the nation for child molesters was signed on Monday by Texas Governor Rick Perry. House Bill 8, also known as Jessica's Law, will go into effect on September 1. The bill is named for Jessica Lunsford, a nine year old Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped and killed by a convicted sex offender.
Joining Governor Perry at the ceremony were Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, as well as representatives from several Texas law enforcement groups and victim's rights groups. Also attending was Jessica Lunsford's father, Mark Lunsford.
State Senator Bob Deuell, (R - Greenville) authored Jessica's Law in the Texas Senate (Senate Bill 5) and was the Senate sponsor of the bill signed by Governor Perry.
"In February 2006, I made a commitment to my constituents that I would file Jessica's Law and do everything I could to protect our most vulnerable citizens," Deuell said. "With the signing of House Bill 8, we have sent a clear message that we will not tolerate these heinous crimes in Texas."
Deuell, a practicing family physician, was unable to attend the ceremony due to his medical practice but did speak with Lunsford by phone before the ceremony.
"I just wanted to apologize for not being able to attend and thank him for all the work he is doing across the country," Deuell said. "He was very gracious and I look forward to meeting him in person."
According to Lunsford, Texas is the 32nd state to adopt Jessica's Law.
"It's time that we turned the tables and instead of them stalking our kids, we stalk them," Lunsford said. "And instead of them being our worst nightmare, we become theirs."
Dewhurst, who made passing Jessica's Law the cornerstone of his "Texas Children First" initiative, praised the passage of the bill.
"From the beginning of this session, passing a 'Texas tough' Jessica's Law has been one of my top priorities,'" Dewhurst said. "Jessica's Law will protect countless children from harm, but when one of these heinous crimes does occur, this will allow prosecutors to seek severe and appropriate justice."
Key components of Jessica's Law include:
- Mandatory minimum sentence of 25-years to life for aggravated sexual assault against a child under 14 with an aggravated circumstance.
- Death penalty option or life without parole available to prosecutors for a second aggravated sexual assault against a child under 14 with an aggravated circumstance.
- Lifetime GPS monitoring for sexually violent predators who are civilly committed.
- Eliminates statute of limitations in cases of child sexual assault and doubles statute of limitations in other cases of sexually violent offenses.