Last night, the House of Representatives passed the Child Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 6063) by voice vote. The bill provides law enforcement officials with important tools and additional resources to combat the growing threat of child pornography and online exploitation of children.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chief sponsor of the bill, urged his colleagues to support the legislation during floor debate on Tuesday night.
Chairman Smith: "Internet child pornography may be the fastest growing crime in America, increasing an average of 150% per year. Every day online criminals prey on America's children with virtual anonymity. And according to recent estimates, there are as many as 100,000 fugitive sex offenders in the U.S.
"This bipartisan legislation increases penalties for child pornography offenses that involve young children and strengthens protections for child witnesses and victims. The bill allows a federal court to issue a protective order if it determines that a child victim or witness is being harassed or intimidated and imposes criminal penalties for violation of a protective order. It gives the U.S. Marshals limited subpoena authority to locate and apprehend fugitive sex offenders.
"The Child Protection Act ensures that paperwork does not stand in the way of the apprehension of dangerous criminals."
Background on H.R. 6063: TheChild Protection Act increases the maximum penalties from 10 to 20 years for child pornography offenses that involve prepubescent children or children under the age of 12. The bill strengthens protections for child witnesses and victims, who are often subjected to harassment and intimidation throughout the trial process.
It also extends the authorization of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces for five years and increases the cap on grant funds for ICAC training programs.
Lastly, the bill improves the ability of the U.S. Marshals Service to apprehend fugitive sex offenders by giving them express administrative subpoena authority -- only for fugitive investigations of unregistered sex offenders. The bill has 38 cosponsors. Last week, Senators Blumenthal and Cornyn introduced the companion bill in the Senate.
H.R. 6063 is supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, the National Sheriffs' Association, the Major City Chiefs of Police, and the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN), among other groups.