Joined by members of the General Assembly, law enforcement professionals, and public safety experts from around the state, Governor Bob McDonnell ceremonially signed five pieces of legislation today aimed at preventing the sexual exploitation of children. The legislation, which took effect July 1, creates a mandatory minimum life sentence for criminals who commit certain sexually based crimes on children 13 years old or younger, requires coaches, administrators and college employees to report any suspected child abuse to law-enforcement authorities, and strengthens penalties for possession, sale or exhibition of child pornography.
"There is no greater role for government than providing for the safety of each one of our 8 million Virginians, especially when it comes to those most vulnerable to crimes-our children. The bills I sign today will provide additional tools for judges and prosecutors to convict these criminals, and further ensure safer communities for our children."
Delegate Rob Bell, who patroned four of the six bills signed today, said, "Recent events from across the country have reminded us that some criminals prey upon our most vulnerable citizens, those under 18. These new laws make it easier to catch them, and upon conviction, substantially increase the punishment they will receive. Someone who is indicted and convicted of raping a child will receive a mandatory life sentence -- this is the most substantial increase in penalties to those who sexually abuse children in my career, and I thank Governor McDonnell for his leadership in helping keep our children safe."
Senator Mark Obenshain, who patroned SB436 which established minimum life sentences for an adult offender convicted of rape, forcible sodomy and object sexual penetration of a child under age 13, said, "Some crimes are so heinous that society simply cannot tolerate them, and those who violate a young child deserve nothing less than life imprisonment for their crime. Therefore, I am proud that Virginia has adopted this no-nonsense approach, ensuring that those who commit the most heinous of crimes never have the opportunity to endanger others again."
Bills Signed Today
HB973 (R. Bell) /SB436 (Obenshain) - Imposes upon an adult offender a mandatory minimum life sentence for rape, forcible sodomy and object sexual penetration of a child under age of 13
HB970 (R. Bell) - Makes it mandatory for any person employed by a public or private institution of higher education in Commonwealth to report suspected abuse or neglect of a child
HB3 (B. Marshall) - Adds athletic coaches and directors of private sports organizations or teams to the list of mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse
HB964 (R. Bell) - Provides that any person 18 years of age or older who displays child pornography or a grooming video or materials to a child under 13 years of age is guilty of a Class 6 felony
HB963 (R. Bell) - Makes it a felony offense to persuade another person to provide child pornography in order to gain entry into a group engaged in trading or sharing child pornography