(ATLANTA) Attorney General Thurbert Baker and Representative Mike Boggs (D-Waycross) announced today the introduction of HB 462, the Child Protection Act of 2003. Joining Representative Boggs as co-sponsors are Majority Leader Jimmy Skipper (D-Americus), Minority Leader Lynn Westmoreland (R-Sharpsburg), Judiciary Committee Chairman Tom Bordeaux (D-Savannah), and State Planning and Community Affairs Committee Chairman Tommy Smith (D-Nicholls). The bill would require a mandatory minimum prison term of three years for child molesters convicted the first time. Georgia law currently allows child molesters convicted of a first offense to receive straight probation without serving any prison time. From September 2001 to September 2002, 360 convicted child molesters received a sentence of only probation, allowing them to avoid serving prison time. [Georgia Department of Corrections data].
“It is unacceptable that each year hundreds of convicted child molesters are allowed to avoid prison time,” said Attorney General Baker. “We must make sure that we keep these predators out of our neighborhoods, and we need to send them the message that in Georgia, molesting a child is a serious crime that will require you to do hard time,” he continued.
This bill also closes a large loophole in Georgia child pornography laws by creating the crime of Obscene Internet Contact with a Child. This new language ensures that a person who sends explicit narrative accounts of sexual conduct or nudity to a child over the Internet is committing a crime.
“We cannot allow those who would exploit our children to send them explicit pornographic messages through the Internet. That type of activity needs to be a crime,” said Representative Boggs.
Another critical element of the bill ensures that child pornographers can be charged if they use a portion of a child’s body in sexually explicit material. Child pornographers are currently evading laws against such activity by using a portion of a child’s body instead of the entire picture of the child. These pornographers often take the face of a celebrity and put it on a picture of a child’s body. This technique is commonly referred to as “morphing.”
The bill increases penalties for persons who entice children over the Internet and for those who create child pornography. The crime of enticing a child over the Internet is increased from a misdemeanor to a felony, and the penalty is raised to a prison sentence of up to 25 years and a fine of up to $25,000. The penalty for the crime of creating child pornography is increased by allowing the imposition of a prison sentence of up to 20 years AND a fine of up to $10,000 (current law allows for the imposition of the prison sentence OR the fine).
The bill also requires convicted child molesters to submit to court ordered counseling while on parole. Current law requires counseling during incarceration but not during the parole period when the offender is in the community.