Dothan First: House passes bill to strengthen laws against child sex crimes
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WDHN) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a new bill to strengthen the laws against child sex crimes Tuesday.
The Preventing Child Exploitation Act of 2018— sponsored by Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama, 2nd District — combines previous acts passed by the House: the Strengthening Children’s Safety Act, the Global Child Protection Act, the Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act, and the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act.
It aims to close certain loopholes and expand the definition of illicit sexual conduct and sex offenses.
According to Roby, the bill does not add any new minimum sentences.
"Instead, they modify the existing statuary framework to ensure the existing enhancements are applied equitably," she said.
Roby said the bill is necessary to catch up with the increasing amount of sex crimes against children, according to a child protection hearing the House held last month.
"Additionally, the offenses are becoming more depraved, and the victims are getting younger," Roby said.
Roby also challenged concerns that the new laws may open up prosecution by the Department of Justice of teenagers who engage in sexting, saying there was no case of the federal government going after teenagers.
In this, Roby is correct.
While both federal and state governments prohibit the transmission of child pornography, it is the states that determine the degree of the punishment for teens, as stated by the American Bar Association. For example, Massachusetts treats it as a felony while Florida treats it as a misdemeanor.
"Last year, we offered to work on a provision to provide an affirmative defense in this chapter of the code despite no evidence that one is necessary, but we were not taken up on our offer," Roby said.
In the end, the House passed the bill by a voice vote. It will now be sent to the Senate for approval.