Package of Bills Would Give New Jersey Some of the Toughest Oversight in the Country
TRENTON – Senate President and former Governor Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, today announced that he will introduce a package of bills that would make New Jersey a national leader in the fight to crack down on online sexual predators by providing the state with nearly unparalleled authority to monitor or restrict Internet access by convicted sex offenders and impose severe penalties for those convicted of using the Internet for luring.
“We see online sexual predators all over the news these days,” said Sen. Codey. “Their presence has infected the Internet like an out of control computer virus. Essentially, these bills will create a firewall between our children and predators.”
Under Sen. Codey’s first bill, anyone convicted of using a computer to help commit a sex offense would be strictly prohibited from using a computer or accessing the Internet, restrictions that could only be lifted by a court order. The bill also gives the State Parole Board the discretion to impose Internet access restrictions on other sex offenders, regardless of whether they used a computer to facilitate their crime.
These restrictions would require the person to: submit to periodic, unannounced examinations of their computer equipment; install hardware or software systems on their computer to monitor their use; inform law enforcement if they have access to or use of a computer or Internet device; and receive written approval from the court before accessing or using a computer or the Internet.
Sen. Codey noted that in a survey commissioned in January by Dateline NBC, 500 teenagers across the country, ages 14 to 18, were questioned about their computer habits. An overwhelming majority said they chat online to people they’ve never met before. When asked if someone they’ve met online has wanted to meet them in person, 58 percent said “yes” while 29 percent said they’ve had a “scary” experience online.
Sen. Codey also noted that given these alarming statistics, there are currently no federal laws requiring the imposition of Internet restrictions on sex offenders. Only two other states – Florida and Nevada – have any such restrictions in this area. However, Sen. Codey’s cutting-edge proposals provide a greater safety net by encompassing a much broader group of offenders and including more stringent guidelines for monitoring their computer use.
As part of his comprehensive package, Sen. Codey will also introduce two other bills designed to crack down on criminals who prey on the Internet. His second bill would impose mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for anyone with a history of unlawful sexual contact who attempts to lure or entice a child or adult by use of the computer. The bill increases the mandatory minimum to five years for those who lure a child and establishes, for the first time, a mandatory minimum of three years for those who lure an adult.
Sen. Codey’s third bill, known as the “Internet Dating Safety Act,” would require online dating websites to take more responsibility in fostering safe practices. The sites would be required to clearly post whether or not they provide online background checks of all participants. The bill would also require online dating websites to post a list of safety awareness tips.
“As parents, we hope and we pray that we have brought our kids up right. But, regardless of how responsible they are, they’re still young. They still have a certain degree of naivety. And there are all too many people looking to take advantage of that. These bills will provide us with a substantial means for cracking down on sexual predators and other criminals looking to exploit our kids,” added Sen. Codey.