Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) has introduced a bill that will increase the statutory fine and mandatory minimum penalties for sexual assault and sexual abuse of children in the first degree.
Hofschneider said yesterday that his Senate Bill 22-30 is now under committee’s review.
Under the bill, sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree is punishable by imprisonment of not more than 30 years, a fine of not more than $100,000, or both, instead of $50,000 under the current law.
Under the legislation, any person convicted of sexual assault in the first degree or sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree shall be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of no less than 15 years, instead of eight years in the current law, if the person convicted has no prior felony conviction, and 25 years, instead of 15 years in the current law, if the person has a prior felony conviction.
Hofschneider stated in the legislation that Public Law 12-82, which became effective on Jan. 7, 2002, revised the CNMI laws dealing with crimes of sexual assault and sexual abuse of children, correcting deficiencies in the law by providing different levels of crime, such as sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree, sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree, and so forth.
Hofschneider said each of the new crimes proscribed different conduct and provided more severe penalties for conduct that is more harmful and offensive to public safety. He said Public Law 12-82 also increased the penalties dealing with child sex crimes to ensure the protection of the community and to adequately deter persons from engaging in the prohibited conduct. Thus, he said, the maximum penalty for the most severe child sex crimes was increased to imprisonment for not more than 30 years, a level of penalty more in line with that of other jurisdictions at the time.
More than 18 years have passed since the enactment of Public Law 12-82, Hofschneider said, and CNMI laws regarding crimes of sexual assault and sexual abuse of children are still evolving.
He said Public Law 19-72, which became effective on Nov. 17, 2016, amended the Commonwealth Code to remove any time limitations for prosecuting any crime involving sexual conduct, physical or sexual abuse, exhibitionism or sexual exploitation committed against a person under the age of 18.
“Children still need to be protected from sexual assaults and abuses. Too often, children under 18 are the direct victims of sexual violence,” he said.
Hofschneider said one way to improve the protection of children is to increase the penalties, including the statutory fine imposed under the Commonwealth Code up to $100,000 and the mandatory minimum sentences for sexual assault or sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree.
He said a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years or half of the maximum 30-year imprisonment is necessary to deter perpetrators and better protect children from sexual assault and abuse.
He said increasing the mandatory minimum sentence for repeat offenders to 25 years imprisonment is necessary to keep perpetrators from repeating the same crimes against the same victim or new victims and to protect such victims.