The New York State Senate recently passed a package of bills that would strengthen laws and toughen criminal penalties for certain sex offenses related to rape and child pornography. These heinous crimes scar the victims and their families for life and those convicted of such offenses should be dealt with in a severe manner. In addition, bills were passed to expand information on criminal background checks for individuals applying for employment in law enforcement and increasing penalties for the crime of criminally negligent homicide.

One bill, approved by the senate, would ensure those who commit multiple crimes pay for each. Often times the crime of first-degree rape, one of horrifying sexual violence, is repeated either against the same victim, or against multiple victims. Under current law, it is possible for a judge to issue concurrent sentences for multiple counts arising from separate and distinct acts. At this time, a rapist convicted of multiple counts could receive as little as five years in prison. The legislation (S.1826) I support would require that the sentences on each count run consecutively to ensure that no rape goes unpunished.

The senate also passed a bill (S.1417A) that would create graduated levels of criminal charges for large scale producers and distributors of child pornography. It would permit prosecution of internet pedophiles in proportion to the scale and danger of their criminal activity.

Anyone who commits a crime against a child should be punished severely. Criminals who prey on a child’s innocence and engage in child pornography on a larger scale should face even stiffer penalties. The current statutory system of “one-size fits-all” has an often unintended consequence of leniency for sexual predators. This legislation would provide law enforcement with penalties that better fit the level of the crime as they work to end this unconscionable abuse of children.

The senate also passed a bill (S. 1423) to expand the unsealing of criminal histories for the purpose of investigating applicants for employment by police departments and other law enforcement agencies. Under current law, law enforcement agencies are authorized to obtain records of sealed acquittals of the applicant, but not sealed convictions.

There is no doubt that before a police department hires an officer, they should be made aware of all previous arrest and prosecution records. Police officers hold a position of immense public trust and full disclosure is vital before they are allowed to put on uniforms and swear to serve and protect. Full background disclosure of a potential police officer ensures that departments are made up of men and women of the utmost character.

In addition, the senate approved the following criminal justice bills:

S.256 would make the crime of surreptitious surveillance a class B misdemeanor. A person would be guilty of this crime if he or she intentionally observes another person dressing or undressing or intentionally observes such person’s sexual or intimate parts without that person’s knowledge or consent when that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Current surveillance statutes encompass the use or installation of an imaging device to surreptitiously view, broadcast or record a person;

S.527 establishes that a person is guilty of grand larceny in the fourth degree when he or she steals property and is in possession of an anti-security item. An example would be possession of an item to remove security tags from clothing in a store;

S.943 increases the penalty for the crime of criminally negligent homicide from a Class E to a Class D felony;

S.487 would require that when a sex offender is sentenced to probation, and he/she violates that probation with another sex offense, that the sentences of incarceration imposed for the probation violation and for the new sex offense run consecutively and not concurrently.

Each of these bills serves to strengthen our criminal justice system by updating laws and closing existing loopholes. The result is a safer New York.

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