A comprehensive bill that seeks to extend the state’s laws against child pornography has passed both houses of the Legislature and reached the governor, according to leading family lawyers in New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie will review a measure proposed in January of this year by Republican Senator Kevin O’Toole from Essex, who has introduced the new bill in an attempt to both protect children and families and to align state laws with already strengthened federal statutes.
The state Senate approved the bill last March with no opposition, and has backed it with a similar vote. Both legislative bodies have taken steps to follow the legislation on its way to the governor. The new bill will enhance New Jersey’s pornography laws in several ways, granting a wider jurisdiction to prosecutors and a stronger enforcement statute when dealing with cases that involve the possession, distribution, and production of child pornography. This legislative action comes at a time when Internet porn is easily produced, and readily available to the general public.
Senator O’Toole’s bill eliminates any discrepancies in how the state government punishes pornography offenders, negating the current state laws that hold different rules for those prosecuted by the federal system versus the state. The bill instead recommends that judges impose the mandatory minimum prison sentences for anyone convicted of distributing 25 or more images of child pornography—a sentence of at least five years for a first-time offender, and 10 or more years for repeat offenders.
The bill also makes it clear that sharing child porn between friends using computer file-sharing programs is a crime of distribution, rather than simply a crime of possession. It also extends the range of engaging a child in any acts of pornography as a first-degree crime to nonparents and guardians, where before engaging in child porn was only a first-degree crime for parents. Eliminated in the proposed legislation is the chance for those who engage in child pornography to serve only partial sentences. The new bill requires that any persons convicted with child pornography charges must serve out at least 85 percent of their prison sentences.
According to O’Toole’s bill, state child pornography laws will be upgraded to make it a first-degree crime for persons to allow or force a child to engage in pornography, or to photograph or film a child under such circumstances. The legislation also upgrades the viewing or possession of child porn from a fourth-degree crime to a crime of the third degree.
After passing the state Senate, the bill underwent a few changes made by the Assembly, and then moved forward in the approval process. Supporters of the new legislation say that, if passed, the bill would reform the “antiquated” child porn laws under which the state currently operates. New Jersey family lawyers report that the bill brings the state closer to matching the toughest current federal laws regarding child pornography and its offenders.
The expert family lawyers at New Jersey-based law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, offer legal counsel and representation to anyone who has been a victim of child pornography.