On June 24, 2013, the New Jersey State Senate unanimously passed bill S2493, which now awaits Governor Chris Christie’s signature prior to becoming enacted as law. The bill, which addresses child sexual abuse and child pornography, aims to completely restructure criminal statute N.J.S. 2C:24-4 (Endangering the Welfare of a Child) to clearly distinguish between acts that lead a child to being “abused” and/or “neglected” from sexual acts that impair or debauch the morals of a child. In addition, it seeks to increase the penalties for possession, reproduction, and distribution of child pornography; it also expands the definitions to each. The bill’s primary sponsor, Senator Kevin J. O’Toole (R-Essex) introduced the bill on January 28, 2013, and has received strong support; passing each house without opposition.
Internet crimes take a front seat in the New Jersey Legislature
The crime of child pornography is largely an internet crime now, and thus, the bill accounts for its changing nature by redefining what it means to distribute, reproduce and possess. Should S2493 be enacted into law, it will dramatically change who and how child pornography cases will be prosecuted. Here is a list of the significant changes the bills seeks to make:
- Change the terminology of “child pornography” to include “item[s] depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child”;
- Increase the age of individuals who are considered “children” from 16 to 18; and
- Includes definition for “file-sharing program” and “peer-to-peer network.”
The criminal statute for child pornography is primarily divided into three different crimes: manufacturing, distribution, and possession. This bill seeks to expand the definition of distribution, a second degree crime, and possession, a third degree crime. Thus distribution may include storing an items containing child abuse or sexual exploitation of a child in a file-sharing program. Possession will no longer be limited to possession or viewing, but also “having under one’s control, by any means, including the Internet.”
Penalties for these crimes will increase as well. Individuals convicted of distribution, possession with the intent to distribute, or storing in a file-sharing program of 25 or more images will be subject to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment with parole ineligibility. Second and subsequent offenses are subject to an extended term of imprisonment.
Similar provisions shall also apply to possession charges. Individuals convicted of possession offenses involving 100 or more images are subject to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment with parole ineligibility, and second and subsequent offenses are subject to an extended term of imprisonment.
Lastly, distribution and possession of child pornography offenses are established as subject crimes subject to Parole Supervision for Life under Megan’s Law upon motion by the prosecution, and establishes manufacturing as a “No Early Release Act” (NERA) offense.
If you have been charged with manufacturing, distributing or possessing child pornography, contact an experienced internet crimes attorney to aggressively defend your case.