Federal Bill Would Increase Penalties for Sex Offenses Against Minors

The House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that bolsters penalties for sex offenses against children under the age of 12. If the bill becomes law, its provisions will affect those accused of sex offenses against a minor in the Baltimore area.

Child Protection Act of 2012: Tougher Sex Offense Penalties

The Child Protection Act of 2012 would make changes to the penalties for possessing child pornography and intimidating or harassing child witnesses or victims. Under the new law, those who are convicted of possessing pornography containing a prepubescent minor or a child under the age of 12 would face a fine and up to 20 years in prison.

The law also grants courts the right to issue protective orders that ban those accused of sex offenses against a child from harassing or intimidating that child or child witnesses. An individual convicted of harassing or intimidating a child witness may be fined, spend up to five years in prison, or both.

Child Protection Act of 2012: Other Provisions

In addition to increasing penalties for possession of child pornography and intimidation or harassment of a child witness, the Child Protection Act also contains provisions to fight Internet sex offenses and expand the power of U.S. Marshals who pursue unregistered sex offenders.

The Child Protection Act allocates $60 million a year until 2018 to the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force to fight Internet sex crimes against children. The Act also grants the ICAC an additional $4 million for Task Force training.

Another major provision of the Child Protection Act of 2012 expands the power of U.S. Marshals to hunt down unregistered sex offenders across the nation. The Act would allow U.S. Marshals to issue administrative subpoenas to investigate unregistered sex offenders. An administrative subpoena does not require a court's approval, meaning that if the bill becomes law, U.S. Marshals would empower themselves to investigate unregistered sex offenders without the oversight of a court.

Criticism of the Child Protection Act of 2012

Many individuals and organizations have serious reservations about the Child Protection Act. The American Civil Liberties Union believes the bill impedes the civil rights of the accused and the American Library Association argues that the bill, in its increased funding of the ICAC, would create issues concerning online privacy.

Still others believe the Child Protection Act of 2012 poses a much greater risk to the country's legal process. Critics of the bill believe it changes the burden of proof in child pornography and child witness harassment cases, requiring the defendant to prove his or her innocence rather than demanding the prosecution prove the defendant's guilt.

If the Child Protection Act of 2012 becomes law, it will have dramatic implications for those accused of sex crimes against minors. If you or a loved one is facing such accusations, please contact an experienced criminal law attorney.