Wisconsin’s Attorney General wants to make it easier to prosecute sexual predators who target children.
In 2010, state and local efforts through the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force resulted in the arrests of 126 people who allegedly used the internet to contact potential victims. In many of those cases, the offenders were talking to agents posing as children.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is concerned though that a loophole in current state law could prevent many of them from facing the full penalties for their actions. Van Hollen says there’s some confusion over whether to charge those individuals with an attempted crime, since they did believe they were trying to solicit a minor.
Those charged with an attempted crime only face half the maximum legal penalties of soliciting an actual minor. Van Hollen told a legislative committee this week that “essentially the attempt is the completion of the crime” and should be treated as such by the law.
Van Hollen is supporting a bill that would change state law to treat attempted child enticement the same as successfully carrying out the crime. He says it would allow those offenses to be in a way similar to someone caught in a drug sting, where contact with an undercover officer is the same as trying to buy drugs from an actual dealer.
State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point), the sponsor of the bill, says it really should not matter if it’s an undercover officer or a child. “The intent of the perpetrator is still the same, and that is to try to have sexual contact with that person on the other end of the computer.”
The legislation also makes changes to how child pornography seized as part of a criminal investigation is treated. Currently there are no restrictions on releasing that material to defense attorneys, which Van Hollen says could result in that material being copied and redistributed. The bill would make the evidence contraband, which would put in place access restrictions similar to those used for guns and drug evidence.
The Assembly passed the bill in October and it’s currently being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:14)