February 25, 2016

Guv signs bill toughening child porn penalties

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Andy Lyman

Susana Martinez during the 2016 State of the State Address.

New Mexico will soon have tougher criminal penalties for people caught manufacturing, distributing and possessing child pornography.

Susana Martinez during the 2016 State of the State Address. Photo Credit: Andy Lyman.

Andy Lyman

Susana Martinez during the 2016 State of the State Address. Photo Credit: Andy Lyman.

Gov. Susana Martinez signed the bill, which became one of the most heated during this year’s legislative session, earlier today.

The new law increases prison term penalties for manufacturing child porn from nine years to 12 years, distribution from three years to 11 years and possession from 18 months to 10 years. One more year of prison will be added to each penalty if the victim in the child pornography is under 13 years old.

It will go into effect later this year.

Martinez signed the bill despite expressing reservations about an amendment to the bill that exempts consensual teenage sexting from being considered child pornography.

“I don’t support the so-called ‘sexting’ amendment, as I believe the reasoning behind it is misinformed and it was not carefully considered,” Martinez said in a statement. “I do not have the authority to line-item veto this provision, however, and ask the legislature to work on this issue in the next session.”

Approval of the amendment, supported by state senators from both parties, caused a staffer from Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office who was acting as an expert witness to storm out of the room during a senate committee hearing earlier this month. Balderas’ office pushed hard for the legislation initially but opposed the amendment, arguing that it would allow adults to pay or pressure minors to make child pornography.

Supporters of the amendment, however, argued that not exempting teen sexting would lead to arrests and jail time for teenagers who, in the words of Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, are simply “being young and dumb.”

Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Sandia Park, even said during committee that she would filibuster the bill if the sexting amendment wasn’t added.

“These kids are active at this age,” Wilson Beffort said at the time. “If you are a parent of a boy who goes to jail, it’s really serious.”

Earlier versions of the child porn bill, carried by Reps. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque; Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque and Randal Crowder, R-Curry, would have charged criminal penalties for each image of child pornography possessed by a defendant. Opponents of this type of sentencing said this would, in effect, make punishments worse for possessing child pornography than for distributing or manufacturing. Martinez said in her statement that she will still support those types of penalties.

“Surrounding states have per-image laws, and ours should as well,” Martinez said.

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that Reps. Javier Martinez and Randal Crowder also co-sponsored the child porn penalties bill.

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