By Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini
In April, 27 New Jerseyans were arrested for child pornography following a massive effort by the Digital Technology Investigations Unit of the New Jersey State Police. More recently, two Monmouth County residents were arrested in the same week for possession of explicit images depicting children.
Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. The U.S. Department of Justice says that prosecutions for crimes against children are up 40 percent since 2006.
Surprisingly, incidents involving the production, transmission and possession of child pornography transcend all age, gender and socio-economic levels. Those arrested included a woman, a minor and county employee and spanned ages 17 to 66. Because most offenses happen online, detectives have become tech-savvy and now trace digital fingerprints from images passed through the Internet by following file transfers to their origin and destination.
However, the prevalence of these crimes prove that current penalties are not having a deterrent effect on offenders. To address this issue, I have sponsored two bills that would strengthen child pornography penalties. Under the current law, possession of child pornography is a crime of the fourth degree, which is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Under the bill I sponsored, A-923, the possession of child pornography would be upgraded to a crime of the third degree, which carries a sentence of three to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $15,000. This bill would also add the crimes of producing or transmitting child pornography to the list of offenses for which parole supervision for life is required.
The second measure, A-154, addresses the issue of causing or permitting a child to engage in or simulate a sexual act knowing it would be photographed or reproduced. The current law holds that such an offense is considered a crime in the first degree only for parents or guardians of the victim. Under this legislation, such a crime would be classified in the first degree for anyone, regardless of their relationship to the victim. This bill also seeks to clarify the definition of “distribute” to include dissemination through the Internet.
Clearly, the current penalties are too lenient on those who engage in this type of deviant behavior and, unfortunately, sex offenders often repeat the offense. It is our duty to protect the children in our community and this legislation will help by imposing longer jail terms and stricter supervision for those who prey on children.
Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini represents the 11th District in the state legislature.