Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/05/2004 08:24 AM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CSHB 334(RLS)- UNLAWFUL EXPLOITATION OF MINOR/CHILD PORN REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MEYER, sponsor of HB 334, told members that this legislation increases the penalty for unlawful exploitation of a minor, basically the production of child pornography. It will increase the penalty from a class B to a class A felony for a second offense. He thanked Senator French for his input on this bill during its early stages. His initial intent was to concentrate on the actual production of child pornography and unlawful exploitation of a minor. However, as the bill moved through the committee process, discussions ensued about how, if there was no demand for the product, the product would not be made. He disagrees with that argument. He said he believes the distribution is also a problem so agreed to also raise the penalty to a class A felony. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said his concern about this issue stems from his service for three years on the Stand Together Against Rape (STAR) board, where he saw pornographic activities lead to more serious offenses, such as sexual abuse of a minor. In addition, he is the father of two young daughters. He believes that young juveniles are very vulnerable and can often be enticed to participate in pornographic activities for drugs or money and later regret that participation. Once a pornographic video is made, it could be circulated or put on the Internet forever. He pointed out the presumptive sentence for a class B felony is one to four years in prison. Research shows that most people convicted of that crime spend only one to two years in prison. He is concerned that convicts can be out on the street after one year, reoffending the same crime. That is the reason he believes a long prison sentence for a second offense is appropriate. This legislation will more closely align Alaska's penalty with the federal penalty, which applies to interstate activity. He said he has heard from various groups that because Alaska's law is so liberal compared to the federal law, it is often difficult to get federal grants. CHAIR SEEKINS asked for the definition of "unlawful exploitation of a minor." REPRESENTATIVE MEYER defined it as the making of a video or taking a photograph. He explained that no touching is involved; touching falls under sexual abuse of a minor. CHAIR SEEKINS asked if anything in the bill would apply to a parent who takes a photograph of his infant in the bathtub for a family photo album. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said nothing in the bill would apply. CHAIR SEEKINS said he wanted to affirm for the record that is not the intent of this legislation. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER noted that he has done some research on the type of people being convicted for this crime and found they are not parents taking photos of their naked infants. MS. LINDA WILSON, Public Defender Agency, commended Representative Meyer for the hard work he has done on this bill. She noted the current version of the bill targets predatory pedophiles. The language in the existing statute of unlawful exploitation is fairly broad; it addresses anyone under the age of 18 and applies to someone who intends to produce a single photo. There have been concerns expressed that the original law makes the penalty a class A felony, and could be applied to just that one offense. It could also apply to juveniles or two people engaged in consensual sex who took a picture. HB 334 is more targeted toward the people it should apply to. CHAIR SEEKINS noted no one else wished to testify, so he closed public testimony. SENATOR OGAN thanked Ms. Wilson for her input on this bill, especially in light of her huge workload. CHAIR SEEKINS also thanked Ms. Wilson. SENATOR OGAN moved CSHB 334(RLS) from committee with individual recommendations and its attached fiscal note. There being no objection, the motion carried.