TRENTON — The full state Senate today passed a comprehensive, bipartisan child pornography prevention act.
“This legislature has the duty to pass one of the most important initiatives in state history — to protect children from the most dangerous predators and destroy a rapidly proliferating industry that ruins lives,” said the act’s primary sponsor, Kevin O’Toole (R-Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic).
This measure, S-2493, cosponsored by Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Donald Norcross, received final Senate committee approval this morning by the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee.
O’Toole highlighted that S-2493 allows law enforcement and prosecutors to keep child predators behind bars without parole or early release; allows them to charge and convict per offense; and makes it easier for them to charge and convict for possession and distribution by establishing the use of child pornography file-sharing programs as a second-degree crime.
“There is no greater, more important task than protecting the safety and well-being of our children,” emphasized Sweeney (D-Gloucester). “By increasing and revising the penalties for those who would seek to do physical and mental harm to kids, we are providing enhanced protections for children.”
“These kinds of crimes, which are committed against children, are the most horrific in society. We have to ensure that our state laws provide law enforcement with the tools necessary to prosecute the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes against minors and to bring them to justice,” said Norcross (D-Camden, Gloucester). “By updating our laws to bring them in line with federal statute, we will enhance our ability to hold these individuals accountable and improve protections for children.”
S-2493 was created by O’Toole in conjunction with the state Attorney General’s office. This measure, which now awaits state Assembly action:
- Broadens the coverage of child pornography laws to cover victims younger than 18 years of age; current law only covers those younger than 16 years of age.
- Upgrades causing a child to engage in pornography from a second-degree crime to a first-degree crime.
- Adds the crime of causing or engaging child pornography to the “No Early Release Act,” meaning a convict would have to serve at least 85 percent of his or her sentence to be eligible for release.
- Imposes a mandatory prison sentence for those convicted of distributing at least 25 images of child pornography; for a second or subsequent offense, it establishes an extended prison term (associated with first-degree penalties) with no chance of parole.
- Upgrades the crime of possession to a third-degree crime, from a fourth-degree crime, and imposes a mandatory prison sentence; for a second or subsequent offense, it establishes an extended prison term (associated with second-degree penalties) with no chance of parole.
- Makes peer-to-peer file sharing a distribution crime, as opposed to possession.
- Imposes parole supervision for life for those convicted of production and distribution of child pornography; it forces them to disclose any online accounts and passwords.
- Disallows a conviction for possessing child pornography from being expunged from an offender’s record, making all child pornography crimes are permanently on offenders’ records.
“It is impossible to stomach continuing reports of child pornography cases in New Jersey communities and how a criminal enterprise is strengthened every time an innocent child suffers the worst abuse,” O’Toole concluded.
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