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New law requires mark on sex offender IDs

TUSCALOOSA (AP) — A new state law took effect Friday that requires all convicted adult sex offenders to have a special mark placed on their state driver licenses or non-
driver identification cards.

The mark will be visible to anyone who checks a person's identification — from police officers to grocery store cashiers to clerks at video stores.

"So now, when we've got a missing child in the neighborhood and officers are checking a certain area, doing roadblocks and making sure they check all the vehicles in that area, we can look at (the sex offender) and check them a little bit closer," Tuscaloosa Police Chief Ken Swindle said.

Any sex offender leaving prison or changing residences must get a new license that will bear the sex offender mark. Convicted sex offenders who already have a license or identification card must get the mark when their current card expires, Attorney General Troy King said.

The Alabama Legislature passed the new Sex Offender Notification Act requiring the marked driver licenses during a special session in July 2005.

Dorris Teague, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Public Safety in Montgomery, said the system to mark the driver licenses and ID cards was in place and operational. In fact, at least two
driver licenses were issued on Thursday bearing the new mark, she told The Tuscaloosa News.

King said sex offenders who are not in jail could wait until their current license is up for renewal or needs updating.

"It does not provide that all new sex offenders need to go get new licenses (today)," King said. "It does provide that when renewed, a criminal sex offender is required to tell the driver license office that they have a criminal sexual background.

"And it's a tough penalty not to do it."

Failure to comply is a Class C felony crime.

Law enforcement officials, who supported the law's passage, say the mark is a way to ensure that sex offenders are scrutinized.

Defense attorneys, though, see it as a way of painting all sex offenders as deviants.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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