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Martinez Signs Bill Mandating 10-Year Minimum Sentence For Child Porn Possession

Feb 25, 2016

Credit Office of the Governor

  Santa Fe, NM — Today, Governor Susana Martinez signed legislation enacting tougher penalties for possessing, distributing, and manufacturing child pornography.

Following a 2014 New Mexico Supreme Court decision that ended the long-standing precedent of allowing prosecutors to charge child pornographers with multiple counts based on the number of images or videos they possessed, those who possessed child pornography were only sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The law signed by the Governor today increases the penalty for child pornography possession from 18 months to 10 years, and also increases the penalty for distribution of child pornography from 3 years to 11 years and manufacturing of child pornography from 9 years to 12 years. Each of these new penalty thresholds would be increased by 1 year if any victim of the child pornography crime is under 13 years old.

“There is no question that this legislation significantly increases penalties for those who possess, distribute, or manufacture child pornography,” said Governor Martinez. “While I supported the original legislation that would have closed the per-image loophole created by the Supreme Court’s decision, I believe this bill is an important step forward in protecting our children from exploitation. As a former prosecutor who specialized in child abuse and sexual abuse cases, I know how important it is that we protect our kids from these abhorrent criminals.”

The legislation was sponsored by Representatives Sarah Maestas Barnes (R-Albuquerque) and Randal Crowder (R-Clovis).

As amended in the State Senate, House Bill 65 also creates an exemption from possession of child pornography charges for teenagers between 14 and 17 years old who willingly send explicit images of themselves to one another. The Governor did not support this so-called “sexting” amendment, agreeing with the Attorney General that it was unnecessary and legally problematic.

“I don’t support the so-called ‘sexting’ amendment, as I believe the reasoning behind it is misinformed and it was not carefully considered. 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,” continued Governor Martinez. “The fact remains that the central purpose and function of this legislation is to significantly increase penalties for those who engage in child pornography crimes.”

The Governor will continue to support legislation that also closes the per-image child pornography loophole in state law, which was why this bill was introduced in the first place.

“Prosecutors have always had the discretion to charge serial child pornographers with multiple crimes, based on the number of images or videos they possess or create,” said Governor Martinez. “The increase in penalties in this bill is important. But, surrounding states have per-image laws, and ours should as well. There’s still more work to be done to ensure our state’s laws are not weaker than neighboring states, and I urge the Legislature to continue working with law enforcement, the Attorney General, and me to further strengthen our child pornography laws.”