Bills Would Give New Jersey Some of the Toughest Law Enforcement Tools in the Nation
TRENTON – The full Senate today approved a package of bills sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) and Senator John Girgenti (D-Bergen, Passaic) that would give New Jersey some of the toughest tools in the nation to crack down on the growing threat of Internet predators.
“The best way to protect our kids is to educate them, stay on top of their Internet activity, and turn these bills into law,” said Sen. Codey. “We can either leave it to Dateline NBC to try and protect our kids or we can step up to the plate now and provide law enforcement with the tools they need to effectively address this threat.”
Bills S-1977, 1978, and 1979 would provide 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, effectively making New Jersey a national leader in the fight to crack down on online sexual predators.
“The Internet can be a useful link to a plethora of information and a convenient way to stay in touch with friends and family, but unfortunately some people out there are using the Internet as a way to prey on our children,” said Senator Girgenti. “As a co-sponsor of ‘Megan’s Law,’ I understand how important it is to protect ourselves and the children of this state from sex offenders. By taking computer and Internet access away from those who use these devices to commit sex crimes, we are reducing the risk of them being tempted to become repeat offenders.”
Under bill S-1979, anyone convicted of using a computer to help commit a sex offense could be strictly prohibited from using a computer or accessing the Internet, restrictions that could extend for their entire period of parole. The bill would also give 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 state before accessing or using a computer or the Internet.
Sen. Codey noted that 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, the proposals put forth by Senators Codey and Girgenti 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 this comprehensive package, the Senate also approved two other bills designed to crack down on criminals who prey on the Internet. Bill S-1978 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 a computer. The bill would increase the mandatory minimum to five years for those who lure a child and would establish, for the first time, a mandatory minimum of three years for those who lure an adult.
Bill S-1977, also 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.