Our children are the future of New Mexico. They are our most precious resource, but they need our care and protection.
Lately, we have seen heartbreaking reports of children suffering horrifying acts of abuse, sometimes at the hands of their own teachers, caregivers and family members. Many of these cases could have been prevented were it not for New Mexico’s weak child abuse laws.
We must fix these flaws to protect New Mexico’s children.
During this upcoming legislative session, House Republicans are proposing a number of measures to strengthen the laws that hold child abusers and predators accountable for their crimes against children.
Once again, we are sponsoring legislation to close New Mexico’s child pornography loophole.
In New Mexico, a person can possess thousands of images and videos of children, often as young infants and toddlers, being sexually abused and the offender can be charged with only one count and sentenced to as little as 18 months.
It is an embarrassment and tragedy that this loophole exists, as it creates an environment that makes our children vulnerable to the most depraved of child predators.
New Mexico cannot continue to be seen as an appealing base of operations for child pornography manufacturers and distributors, and a safe harbor for collectors of these horrific images.
The bill we have introduced has bipartisan support. It has been endorsed by Attorney General Hector Balderas and is co-sponsored by Rep. Javier Martinez, both Democrats.
There is no excuse for not closing New Mexico’s child pornography loophole during the upcoming session.
We have also proposed legislation to make distribution of pornographic images to children a fourth-degree felony.
Child predators will often use pornographic images to solicit children. Under New Mexico’s current law, it is a felony only if these predators send images of their own bodies.
Our bill eliminates the gray area surrounding this act and makes it a clear felony offense.
Additionally, we are working on measures to enhance penalties for individuals who intentionally abuse a child.
One of the bills we have proposed would expand the number of children covered under Baby Brianna’s Law to include all children under the age of 18.
Baby Brianna’s Law is named for Brianna Lopez, an infant who was killed by members of her family in 2002. Currently, Baby Brianna’s Law imposes a life sentence on anyone who abuses a child resulting in the child’s death, but only if the child is under the age of 12.
This bill would make sure all minor children are protected.
Another bill we have introduced increases the penalty for the first offense of intentional child abuse from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony.
Also, the penalty for subsequent offenses would be increased from a second-degree felony to a first-degree felony.
These proposals are similar to legislation that was passed by the House of Representatives during the last legislative session, but later died in the Senate.
We believe these initiatives are too important not to pursue, so we will continue our efforts to see them passed and enacted.
“It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.” We have heard this child abuse awareness message for years. As legislators, we work every year to improve our educational system and our social service network to ensure that our children have every opportunity to succeed.
However, we must first safeguard the health and happiness of children so they can grow and flourish to adulthood.
We believe the legislation we have proposed is crucial to hold child abusers accountable and prevent additional tragedies in the future.