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NJ moves closer to tougher laws against child predators

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

New Jersey authorities would be able to keep child predators behind bars without parole or early release, as part of a series of sweeping measures approved by the state Senate today.

S-2493 also makes it easier for authorities to charge and convict offenders by establishing the use of child pornography file-sharing programs as a second-degree crime.

Co-sponsored by state Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic) — along with Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sen. Donald Norcross — the bi-partisan measure creates “a comprehensive 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,” O’Toole said.

“There is no greater, more important task than protecting the safety and well-being of our children,” said 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.”

Shaped in conjunction with the state Attorney General’s office the bill awaits state Assembly action.

According to O’Toole, it:

• 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 said.

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