BY REBECCA SHEEHAN
The state of New Jersey, along with the determined help of Trenton Senator Kevin O’Toole (R-Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic), are looking to make the child-porn laws near or equal in strength to many federal laws. If passed, the legislation, which was drafted almost entirely by Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa’s office over the past year, would be among the strongest in the nation.
According to reports by NJ Today, O’Toole has recently introduced legislation that would increase the penalties for violating the state’s child pornography laws. Their penalties would help to deter repeat incidents from occurring.
“Predators convicted at the state level will face the most severe punishment for getting their fixes by abusing and profiting off of vulnerable children,” O’Toole emphasized about his proposed legislation. “Families and communities must be protected from the disgusting impulses of the most disturbing criminals.”
* A first-degree crime is punishable by imprisonment for 10 to 20 years, a $200,000 maximum fine or both.
* A second-degree crime is punishable by imprisonment for five to 10 years, a $150,000 maximum fine or both.
* A third-degree crime is punishable by imprisonment for three to five years, a $15,000 maximum fine or both.
* A fourth-degree crime is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and fines up to $10,000.
“Right now too many state offenders are able to get away with little or no prison time and for the same crimes face penalties that are much weaker than those at the federal level,” O’Toole concluded on his senate NJ website. “This legislation modernizes New Jersey’s child pornography laws and makes them among the toughest in the country.”
* 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.