Penalties increase for child pornography


Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad wraps up 2015 legislative action with vetoes to one-time funding for education and a plan to reopen mental health facilities in the state.

Thaddeus Mast

The Iowa House of Representatives is currently looking into increasing the penalties of child pornography.

“It’s a crime that takes place behind closed doors. We don’t really know how often this is happening,” said Geoff Huff, Ames Police investigations commander.

Called House File 563, the bill increases a first-offense violation from an aggravated misdemeanor to a class “D” felony. Any subsequent violation will be a class “C” felony or class “D” felony.

An exception to this is if a person is younger than 21 years old, and the minor shown in the picture gave or sent it, unsolicited, to the violator. If the two are within four years of age, the violator will be charged with an aggravated misdemeanor.

An aggravated misdemeanor has a sentence of no more than two years and a fine of up to $6,000. A class “D” felony has a sentence of no more than five years and up to $7,500, while the class “C” felony can leave the offender in jail for up to 10 years and $10,000

In addition to this increase of penalties, an offender must already serve a special 10-year sentence for sexual exploitation of a minor, as well as being required to register as a sex offender for no less than ten years.

The bill was brought to the attention of the Justice Committee chairman by Achieving Maximum Potential, a youth program in Iowa.

“It’s for kids who are in foster care and shelter care, and this was their proposal due to at least one of them being a victim of human trafficking, and a victim of one of these crimes has been asking for an increase in penalties for the perpetrators,” said Iowa House Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell.

Achieving Maximum Potential has many locations throughout Iowa, including their statewide office in Ames.

“It’s a way for kids aging out of foster care or younger, to kind of empower themselves and be influential in policy making as well as working to resolve some of their issues. They meet once a week at youth and shelter services,” Wessel-Kroeschell said.

While this bill tries to stop child pornography through increased penalties, Wessel-Kroeschell does not believe it is enough.

“One thing I’m looking at is to get training for people in the field, like peace officers and counselors to help deal with the issues that these kids deal with when they’ve been a victim of human trafficking,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “It’s something that I will definitely look into next year.”

Huff agrees that increased jail time may not be enough to stem child pornography. “Most criminals only care about the crime they are committing now, not the penalties of getting caught and charged,” Huff said.

The bill has not yet reached the House floor for discussion. If voted into law this year, the law could take affect by 2014.