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Nicole's Law

Law named for West Chester girl toughens penalties for sex crimes

Candice Brooks Higgins,

3 January 2007

HAMILTON -- After a repeat sex offender victimized her daughter, Lori Robertson asked God, "Why us?"

With a state law in her 10-year-old daughter's name and the governor's pen as keepsake from the journey, Robertson now knows the answer. 

"It was because she was brave enough to speak up and I was passionate enough to fight," Robertson said after she witnessed Gov. Bob Taft Tuesday morning in Columbus sign into law Senate Bill 245, also known as "Nicole's Law." 

More than a year has passed since Michael Hamblin, a recently released sexual offender, exposed himself in December 2005 to then 9-year-old Nicole while she and her mother were shopping at a Kohl's department store on Tylersville Road in West Chester Twp.

But, in 90 days, the law -- jointly drafted by state Sen. Gary Cates, R-West Chester Twp., and Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper's office -- will exact tougher penalties and limit bail opportunities for repeat sex offenders accused of victimizing a minor.

Hamblin, a court-designated sexual predator, had been paroled from prison a week before the West Chester Twp. incident. He posted a $500 bond three hours after his arrest for public indecency and was released without appearing before a judge.

Under current law, there are no mandates that require alleged sexual offenders to appear in court before posting bail. "Nicole's Law" will require alleged sexual offenders, including those charged with public indecency, to appear before a judge before being able to post bail.

It also will enable judges to order higher bail amounts or refuse bail for offenders with prior sexual offense convictions and for those whose current offense involves a child victim. The law will elevate the level of the offense by one degree if the victim is a minor.

The high recidivism rate among sexual offenders threatens children and that's reason enough to change law, Robertson said. Within three years following their release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders were arrested for another sex crime and on average they served less than
half of their sentence, according to a study of 9,691 sex offenders in 15 states the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics released in 2003.

"How do you explain to your 9-year-old daughter that the bad man she put back in jail is out on $60? Right now, a sex offender could do this (expose himself) every day and it never be more than a misdemeanor," Robertson said. "That in itself was motivation to fight to get things changed, not just for my kids, but for my brother's kids, my neighbor's kids and all the kids."

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