Proposed Changes to State Criminal Law Could Put Child Safety at Risk

Irina Baranova

ALEXANDRIA, Va., May 3, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — A private, non-profit organization made up of judges, attorneys, and law professors is about to set back decades of child safety laws.

On May 17, the American Law Institute, or ALI, will vote on sweeping revisions to the Model Penal Code which, if adopted by state legislatures, would roll back child safety laws championed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children over the last 38 years.

Initial outrage from NCMEC, the Justice Department, state attorneys general and many others prompted some adjustments, but several egregious proposals remain unaddressed. Under ALI’s recommendations:

  • The public would no longer have access to state sex-offender registry websites or any information about registered sex offenders.
  • Those convicted of sharing images and videos of children being sexually abused, exploited, even raped on the internet would no longer have to register as sex offenders.
  • People who purchase children for sex would be immune from state sex trafficking charges and wouldn’t be listed on the sex offender registry.

“Buying kids for sex and trading images online of children being sexually abused and raped are 21st century forms of sexual assault of children,” said Yiota Souras, general counsel of NCMEC. “ALI’s efforts to diminish these laws ignore the reality of how these horrific sex crimes are perpetrated against children today.”

ALI’s recommendations also go against federal law in place since 2015 and would exclude buyers of children for sex from liability under state trafficking charges. As a rationale for these changes, ALI indicated it has difficulty treating a buyer as participating in the trafficking crime, because “the buyer’s encounter with a victim is usually brief.”

“No matter how they try to justify it, ALI’s rationale is unacceptable and puts the perceived rights of criminals before children victimized by the atrocities of sexual abuse,” John Walsh, co-founder of NCMEC and host of In Pursuit with John Walsh said. “We cannot allow this to go on.”

Last year alone, NCMEC’s CyberTipline received more than 29 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation, nearly all involving abusive images and videos. With the explosion of CSAM being shared on the internet and child sex trafficking occurring in every corner of America, why is ALI proposing changes to exclude these horrific crimes from the sex offender registry?

The authors of the revised Model Penal Code, which many states rely on to enact and update their criminal laws, have said these revisions are needed to correct the impact of the public’s “emotions and intuitions” relating to sexual offenses. They also acknowledge that many of their recommendations represent a “major departure” from current U.S. law.

NCMEC, child advocacy organizations and others are imploring the public and state legislatures to be aware of this and to encourage ALI to reconsider these unnecessary changes to the Model Penal Code.

More information about ALI’s proposed changes and a video message from John Walsh regarding the impact are available here:

SOURCE National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

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