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Senate Committee Approves Codey/Girgenti Bills To Pull The Plug On Internet Predators

Package Would Give New Jersey Some of the Toughest Oversight in the Country

TRENTON – The Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee today advanced 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 crackdown on the growing threat of Internet predators.

“I’m sick and tired of turning on programs like Dateline and seeing more and more sexual predators preying on our kids. You can be sure the ones we’re seeing on television are only the tip of the iceberg,” said Sen. Codey. “Hopefully these bills will help a lot of parents sleep better at night by providing us with the tools to crack down on sexual predators and other criminals looking to exploit our kids.”

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.

“As Chairman of the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and a co-sponsor of Megan’s Law, I take the safety and security of young people online very seriously,” said Senator Girgenti. “The Internet can be a great tool for researching information and communicating with others, but it can also be dangerous without proper safeguards in place. Sex offenders have no business in our Internet communities, especially the places where our children frequent. These measures will take major steps towards protecting New Jerseyans by keeping sexual predators out of online neighborhoods .”

Under bill S-1979, 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 last year 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. Girgenti 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, 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 committee 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 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.

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.

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