California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law today, called "Chelsea's Law," that stiffens penalties for violent sex offenses against children. The law (see PDF), immediately changes the sentencing guidelines in many current sex offender cases in California courts. Among other provisions, the new law allows for life sentences for sex offenders who attack children under the age of 14 and makes some sex offenders eligible for life parole. Chelsea's Law includes an urgency clause that makes it effective immediately.
The legislation was introduced in the state legislature after registered sex offender John Gardner III was arrested in the February 2010 rape and murder of 17-year-old Chelsea King in San Diego. According to the Los Angeles Times, in May 2010, Gardner pled guilty in the murders of both King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois, who had been missing for a year. He is currently serving three consecutive life sentences and has no possibility of parole.
The law, which was sponsored by state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (R) of San Diego, passed by a rare unanimous vote in the California state legislature. Chelsea's mother, Kelly King, told the lawmakers at the bill signing that "You've shown [the next generation] what is good and right and sound decision making in government," reported CNN. Chelsea's father, Brent King, has said he was initially skeptical about whether or not the bill could pass in the state legislature and had considered seeking passage of the law through the ballot initiative process, according to the Associated Press.
Media Resources: AB 1844; Los Angeles Times 9/9/10; Associated Press 9/9/10; CNN 9/9/10