By Terri Jo Neff
A crime bill intended to establish tougher sentences for commercial forms of sex crimes against children appears on track to hit Gov. Doug Ducey’s office, and the result is expected to be many more offenders being sentenced to mandatory life in prison.
Rep. Leo Biasiucci (R-LD5) introduced HB28898 in January to establish mandatory sentences and sentencing ranges for sex crimes involving children, particularly those involving victims under the age 15. The bill as introduced brought those sentences in line with other violent acts against children under Arizona’s definition of dangerous crimes against children (DCAC).
HB2889 passed the House on March 1 after Biasiucci amended his own bill to ensure someone ages 18 and 19 cannot be imprisoned for sexual exploitation of a minor related to a visual depiction if the victim is 15, 16, or 17, unless the charge involved the sale of the visual depiction.
Sexual exploitation of a minor covers several actions including consensual sexting among minors and other forms of child pornography.
Biasiucci’s bill, which had 13 co-sponsors, was then transmitted to the Senate where it passed March 25 after being amended again, this time turning the emphasis to sentencing mandates for child sex trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation of a minor, and repeat sex offenders.
Under the current form of HB2889, the mandatory prison sentence for an adult convicted of commercial sexual exploitation of a minor will be increased to a range of 13 to 27 years, or 23 years to 37 years for an offender with one predicate felony. Mandatory sentencing for child sex trafficking would increase to a range of 10 to 27 years, or 17 to 45 years for an offender with one predictive felony.
However, for crimes involving victims under age 15, an adult convicted of commercial sexual exploitation of a minor or child sex trafficking must be sentenced to natural life in prison if the person has previously been convicted of the same offense. And that natural life sentence will be ineligible under the bill for commutation, parole, work furlough, work release or release from confinement on any basis.
Because HB2889 was amended in the Senate, the House needs to be vote on and pass the current version before it heads to Ducey.
Commercial sexual exploitation of a minor encompasses a number of activities such transportation through or across state lines to facilitate a minor to engage in prostitution or exploitive exhibition for the purpose of producing a visual depiction or live act depicting such conduct, or getting a minor to expose specified body parts for financial or commercial gain such as through selling photography, digital images, or videos.
Child sex trafficking involves “knowingly causing any minor to engage in prostitution” as well as receiving any benefit on account of procuring or placing a minor in any place or in the charge or custody of any person for the purpose of prostitution. It also includes enticing, recruiting, harboring, providing, transporting, making a minor available to another person with the intent to cause the minor to engage in prostitution or any sexually explicit performance.