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Bill toughening laws against sex offenders advances

Colorado lawmakers have been divided for several years over legislation that would make the penalties harsher against people convicted of sex crimes involving children.

The legislation at issue is modeled after Jessica’s Law, a Florida measure named after a young girl who was raped and killed by a sex offender who was released on parole.

Colorado Republicans have been pushing for a law similar to Jessica’s Law that would impose a mandatory 25-year prison sentence for individuals over the age of 18 who are convicted of sexually assaulting a child under the age of 12.

However, Colorado Democrats argued that the Republican version of the bill went too far. For example, they took issue with the part of the bill that created a new crime called "lewd molestation," which could have resulted in a mandatory 25-year sentence in cases involving sexual touching over clothing.

Democrats also took issue with the indeterminate sentencing that was found in the Republican bill. Indeterminate sentencing imposes a minimum mandatory sentence as well as a requirement to complete treatment or rehabilitation before being released. The sentences include a range of years, such as “10-years to life.”

Democrats drafted their own version of the bill, House Bill 1260, which they say increases mandatory minimum sentences for sex crimes against children under 12 that are already on the books, including sexual intrusion or sexual penetration against children.

The bill, which advanced in a House committee vote this week, would also increase the minimum mandatory sentences for class 4, class 3 and class 2 felonies, and would allow all felonies to carry the indeterminate sentence of life.

It is expected that Republicans and Democrats will provide this bill with the support it needs to become law. That means Colorado’s already-tough laws on sex crimes involving children will likely only get stricter in coming years. 

Source: The Gazette, “Colorado likely to adopt tougher sex offender laws, though not one sponsored by Herpin,” Megan Schrader, March 6, 2014

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