By Jeremy Alford, Capitol Correspondent, Daily Comet.
A Louisiana Senate committee approved legislation Tuesday that would give judges the discretion to mandate GPS tracking devices for certain defendants while they’re out on bail.
Sen. Gary Smith (D) filed Senate Bill 649 to target crimes involving burglary, theft and home invasion. He said individuals who carry out these crimes tend to be repeat offenders, reported The Daily Comet. “They get out on bail, and we lose track of them, and then they usually come back in for the same thing,” Smith said. “If we can keep track of them while they’re out on bail, we’ll know where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing.”
Smith’s bill would allow a judge to mandate, as a condition of bail, that such defendants wear a GPS tracking device if they can afford it. If the alleged offender is unable to pay for the tracking services, a provision in the bill permits community service in lieu of payment.
The GPS tracking legislation will next be heard by the full Senate. If adopted by the House and Senate, and then subsequently signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal, the bill would become law Aug. 1.
Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre requested the bill be filed and asked the Senate Committee on Judiciary to advance the proposal. He also informed its members he owns part of a company that sells GPS tracking systems, among other related services.
The Louisiana Board of Ethics issued an opinion in 2002 stating Webre could sell ignition interlock devices, which are often required of drunk-driving offenders, just as long as he steers clear of doing business in Lafourche Parish. Webre said he’s following the same guidelines with the GPS tracking systems.
He told the committee he came up with the idea for the proposed law when he heard about a burglary involving a sex offender who was being tracked by GPS because of a court order. When coupled with the fact that Lafourche Parish has had 234 burglaries reported this year, he said a light went off. “They were able to solve that burglary with the GPS tracking data,” Webre said.