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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 3, 2020 11:50 AM
From: Senator David J. Arnold, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Enhancing the penalties for child pornography
In the near future I will be introducing legislation that will:
  1. Increase the penalties for those convicted of child pornography, where those images or videos depict a victim that is younger than 6 years of age, or prepubescent; and
  2. Permit the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to provide a sentence enhancement for those convicted of the sexual abuse of children, when the person depicted is known to the defendant.
Far too often people disconnect crimes of viewing child pornography on a digital screen from the incident in which the actual photographs and/or video was taken. While the act of touching a child inappropriately and taking video or photos of that incident is reprehensible, those viewing the materials are no better, and only enable others to commit these types of crimes.

That is why I am proposing that Pennsylvania enhance the criminal penalties for some of the most vile and disgusting acts committed against defenseless and vulnerable children. The criminal justice system should no longer simply penalize those who ‘only look but do not touch’ with a slap on the wrist. These penalties should be brought more in line with the offenders who are actually taking the photographs or videos and inappropriately touching young children.

According to this legislation, an individual who is convicted of possessing child pornography in which the person depicted is less than 6 years of age, or prepubescent, would receive a charge that is one grade higher than the current statute allows. According to Title 18, §6312(d.1) (Grading for sexual abuse of children) this would mean a felony of the third degree would become a felony of the second degree, and a felony of the second degree would become a felony of the first degree.

This proposal is aimed at protecting children under the age of 6, or prepubescent children, who are inherently vulnerable. These young children often lack the ability to cognitively understand the abuse they are enduring. While they may not understand it in the moment, the abuse they have suffered can last a lifetime. This legislation aims to hold those who target the youngest and most vulnerable more accountable for their appalling acts.

The second portion of this legislation deals with sentencing enhancements for those who sexually abuse children that are known to them, and would allow the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to develop guidelines for these crimes. Well over two-thirds of all children who are sexually abused are done so at the hands of a known perpetrator. It’s time to hold the individuals who commit these heinous acts accountable and provide appropriate sentences.

I hope you will join me in cosponsoring this critical legislation. We must protect our children.

Introduced as SB1075