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Editorial: Toughen porn law so NM is not haven for predators

In an attempt to rein in the explosion of child pornography and change the perception that New Mexico is an ideal place to possess, distribute or manufacture it, three state lawmakers and Attorney General Hector Balderas are making another run at closing a loophole that makes our state a magnet for practitioners of these despicable crimes.

A bipartisan bill being sponsored by Reps. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque; Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque; and Randal Crowder, R-Clovis, also would increase penalties when the children depicted are under 13. It is headed for the upcoming 30-day legislative session.

As the result of a 2014 state Supreme Court ruling that criminal charges can’t be tied to the number of images a suspect possesses in many cases, child predators sometimes are charged with just one count of child exploitation by possession even if they possess thousands of images. The new law would allow but not require prosecutors to go after defendants for each unique image or depiction of child pornography in their possession.

A similar bill, introduced by the same three lawmakers, passed the House in the 2015 session, but was opposed by the state Public Defender and the defense lawyers association and died in the Senate Public Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque.

“New Mexico cannot be viewed as an attractive location for child pornographers due to weaknesses in our criminal code,” Maestas Barnes said.

She’s right. It’s time for state lawmakers to recognize that this underground industry, driven by sick people addicted to vile perversions, must be stomped out and the loophole in the law slammed shut.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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