Cracking down on sexual predators

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Each year, public campaigns presented by various organizations attempt to generate awareness about the horrific crimes that fall under the sexual assault heading. The objective is to inform individuals about available services and to provide information on additional steps being taken to assist those who have been victimized.

No one should ever have to endure the pain and suffering that accompanies sexual assault. Whether at the hands of a stranger, or worse yet, a trusted family member, the physical and emotional scars never heal.

The New York State Senate is taking an active role to help end these horrific crimes, passing legislation to strengthen penalties and create new charges for offenses relating to sexual crimes. Two bills, which passed in the senate recently, will help deter criminals, hold violators accountable and create safer communities throughout the state.

First, senate bill 1459 creates significantly longer prison sentences for serial rapists. Under current law, it is possible for a judge to issue concurrent sentences for multiple counts arising from separate acts of rape. This legislation would require consecutive prison sentences for each count of first degree rape when an individual is convicted of multiple counts. Without this change, someone who commits multiple acts of rape can be sentenced as if they only committed one act. Such a horrifically violent crime requires real punishment.

Next, senate bill 2510 creates new felony-level “computer sex crimes”, which involve offenses in which criminals use computers and the Internet to commit sex crimes against children under the age of seventeen.

The anonymity of the Internet has made it easier for criminals to find their victims, especially children. These crimes also frequently involve individuals using a false identity in an effort to engage in sexual contact with minors. This bill increases penalties for such offenses and gives law enforcement additional tools to investigate.

In the past, the senate has also passed senate bill 1391 that increases the penalty for failure to register or report a change of address by a level three sex offender. Currently, sex offenders who fail to register or report address changes only face a misdemeanor for the first offense. The penalty does not reach felony-level until a second offense. This bill punishes first-time offenders more harshly, and repeat offenders would face a higher-level felony charge. Level three sex offenders are considered to be the most dangerous and the most likely to repeat their crimes, they need to follow the laws set forth in regard to their release or face stiff penalties. This bill has been reintroduced again this year.

I have also reintroduced comprehensive legislation to increase penalties for convicted sex offenders, particularly those who prey on children. Under current law, first time sex offenders convicted of a class D felony receive a minimum sentence of only two years, while repeat offenders receive a minimum of only five years in prison. The current sentencing structure is far too lenient for such violent, life-altering crimes.

My legislation, senate bill 3052, would increase the penalty for rape, criminal sexual act, or course of sexual conduct against a child in the second degree from class D to class C felonies. By doing so, the prison sentences would effectively double, allowing judges to hand down a maximum sentence of 15 years for first time offenders, and a 25 year maximum for repeat offenders.

I am hopeful that this is the year these bills will finally receive approval by the state assembly as well so that they can be sent to the governor and signed into law.

I have consistently fought for stronger laws to protect children and other vulnerable individuals from sexual predators. I have also partnered with police and prosecutors to make sure they have the tools they need to arrest and lock up these depraved criminals. I vow to continue the fight to make our communities safer.

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