Sex Crime legislation considered
Associated Press Writer
During the 2009 session, Nevada lawmakers cracked down on perpetrators of sex crimes involving children, passing bills to increase penalties imposed on offenders and to give victims more power to sue for damages.
Gov. Jim Gibbons approved a plan to impose fines that could add up to $1 million, besides any criminal penalties, on sex traffickers who lure or force children into prostitution.
AB380 allows for a $100,000 fine if offenders are convicted of trafficking prostitutes 14 to 17 years old, and a $500,000 fine if the child is less than 14. If a criminal conspiracy is involved, another $500,000 fine could be imposed on those involved, in addition to the other fines.
Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, the bill’s primary sponsor, said he’s proud of the measure. The freshman lawmaker hopes that the big fines might save children from suffering by forcing someone to think twice before getting involved in child prostitution.
“It’s neat. Obviously I’d like to come back to the Assembly, but if I don’t I can say that I’ve succeeded in adding something worthwhile to the state,” said Hambrick, who must run for re-election next year.
The bill also would let authorities freeze and eventually seize assets of those involved in child prostitution. Hambrick said the big fines will be used to help the victimized children, and to help cover costs of prosecuting traffickers who have the money to hire high-powered lawyers.
Lawmakers were previously told that Las Vegas was identified by the FBI as one of 14 cities around
the country with high rates of child prostitution, and that police officers there handled 150 cases of child prostitution last year.
With an eye toward the 2011 session, Hambrick said “should the votes return me, I’d like to look at the issue of child prostitution again.” He added that a number of state and national organizations fighting such crimes have contacted him concerning the issue.
Hambrick also said he is interested in the entire juvenile justice system and would like to explore alternative sentencing for minors as long they aren’t involved in violent or sexually related crimes.
“We have to see where we can tweak these things, we have to use a gentle touch with these kids and see how we can help these kids,” said Hambrick, who is currently chairman of the state Juvenile Justice Commission.
Another bill that that deals with sex crimes involving children passed both houses and is awaiting Gibbons’ signature.
AB88 allows for civil lawsuits when victims of childhood sex crimes learn there’s pornography depicting the crimes against them and imposes fines of up to $150,000 based on crimes for which perpetrators may never have been convicted. The measure was sought by Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.
Assistant Attorney General Keith Munro said that once the bill is signed, Nevada becomes the second state to enact similar legislation.
“The theory is once you are the victim of child pornography, you can’t get those images back,” Munro said. “We wanted to give those victims recourse against those who are using their victimization for unconscionable purposes.”
The bill also makes accessing child pornography on the Internet a crime as long as viewing child pornography was the intent of the perpetrator. Language including possession of child pornography and the use of streaming video via the Internet.
Although the bill came from Masto’s office, law enforcement agencies and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada helped to make the proposed law better, Munro said.
“At the end of the day we got a really good piece of legislation due to collaborative efforts,” Munro said.