Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/27/2004 03:35 PM STA
* 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 CHAIR GARY STEVENS announced CSHB 334(RLS) to be up for consideration. REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MEYER, sponsor, explained that unlawful exploitation of a minor refers to the production of child pornography. The bill increases the penalties for the production and sale of child pornography from a class B felony to a class A felony for persons that have previously been convicted of the crime. It's repeat offenders that are targeted here, he said, and because federal laws are more stringent than the state laws, it's been difficult to qualify for federal grants. Increasing the penalties will address that issue. When he was a member of the STAR Board (Standing Together Against Rape) he found that the production of child pornography leads to the more serious offense of sexual abuse of a minor. Increasing the penalties for production and distribution might help curb the other. SENATOR JOHN COWDERY asked him to explain the difference between a class A and a class B felony. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER explained that the most serious felony is an unclassified felony. The next most serious felony is a class A felony followed by a class B felony and finally a class C felony. The penalty for conviction of a class B felony is incarceration of between one and four years. On the second offense, there is a mandatory four year sentence. The class A felony calls for a five year sentence for the first offense. SENATOR BERT STEDMAN asked for an explanation of aggravators and how they apply. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said there are about thirty different aggravators and they may be added to a sentence at the judge's discretion. SENATOR GRETCHEN GUESS asked how the state is doing in prosecuting and enforcing the laws on these crimes. She added that the prosecution and enforcement of statutory rape is pathetic in most states. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said his staff might have something to add, but he did know that 15 juveniles were charged with unlawful exploitation in a 10 year period. SUZANNE CUNNINGHAM, staff to Representative Meyer, said that information from the Department of Corrections indicates that as of 2000 there were 14 offenders in jail for sexual exploitation of a minor. The youngest offender was age 24 and the oldest was 62. In February a defendant was tried and convicted of 16 counts of sexual abuse of a minor and incorporated in that were three counts of unlawful exploitation of a minor. He was sentenced to a total of 25 years for the 16 counts and is eligible for parole after 10 years. SENATOR GUESS asked about the issue of multiple counts and what the penalty would be if they were all committed at the same time. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said the first offense would be a class B felony then on the second offense the penalty would be a class A felony first offense. SENATOR GUESS asked which it would be if she were convicted of two counts at one time. MS CUNNINGHAM replied the penalty would be a class B felony, but if you were released from prison and were then charged tried and convicted of the same crime then the penalty would be a class A felony. SENATOR GUESS asked if they had a reason for addressing it that way. "Someone could get a class A because they're six months apart on their crimes and someone else could have ten crimes and they would all be class B. Does that make sense?" she asked. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said he didn't have an answer to the question. LT. STOREY stated that he was available to answer questions from the public safety standpoint. He said he had no prepared comments, but it is a good bill and they support it as a means of breaking the cycle of this type of exploitation. CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a motion. SENATOR COWDERY motioned to moved CSHB 334(RLS) from committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes. He asked for unanimous consent. There being no objection, it was so ordered.