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senate Bill S. 134

Should Maximum Prison Terms for Stalkers of Children be Increased?

Argument in favor

Given the nature of their crimes, stalkers who victimize children should be punished to the maximum extent practicable under law. This bill would give judges and prosecutors more latitude to ensure that those who terrorize children receive appropriate sentences. It would also ensure that law enforcement officers are aware of the best practices for enforcing stalking laws.

Kathi's Opinion
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12/08/2020
If the Senate has time for this, they have time to protect children from starvation and incarceration and homelessness.
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larubia's Opinion
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12/08/2020
If a person gets convicted of stalking, I can assure you that the person has done more than stalking...the charges have been plead down & just to get a conviction is a major deal. I am all for harsher sentences for stalkers/pedophiles and a National Registry easily accessed for those who are released back into society. To date, there is no successful treatment for pedophilia.
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Joan's Opinion
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12/08/2020
Absolutely! I support it! Now where is the Covid-19 relief?!
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Argument opposed

This bill could be applied too broadly, potentially raising the stakes in everyday conflicts between children and juveniles who post insensitive — but not necessarily violent — content online to face serious, life-altering consequences. This bill’s requirement that the DOJ report on best practices for enforcing stalking laws is unnecessary given the support that federal agencies also offer to local law enforcement on matters related to stalking and cyber-harassment.

Dave 's Opinion
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12/08/2020
I think we need a law that bans cellphone and social media use by all kids under the age of 16. I’m sort of kind of serious about this! Eliminate stalkers and improve the physical, mental and emotional health of our children all at once.
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B.R.'s Opinion
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12/08/2020
Perhaps I am missing something, but this bill does not address the issue. It talks to increasing the "maximum" penalty, which is fine, but does not mandate a minimum. Since the sentencing will still be left to the courts, how does this prevent the same that happenend in the Zezzo family case, which, I am assuming that since they are using it as an example that the sentencing of probation and counseling was not harsh enough.
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Nick-Papagiorgio's Opinion
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12/08/2020
Are evil industrial incarceration system needs no more victims.
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What is Senate Bill S. 134?

This bill, known as the Combat Online Predators Act, would increase the maximum prison term for a stalking offense of the victim is under 18 years of age. The maximum terms would increase by five years in all cases. This would make the maximum term 10 years for harassment and intimidation without causing serious physical injury or using a dangerous weapon, and 15 years for cases in which serious physical injury was caused or a dangerous weapon was used.

It would also require the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) to report on best practices for enforcing laws related to stalking.

Impact

Underage victims of stalking; stalkers of underage victims; prison terms for stalkers; and the Dept. of Justice.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 134

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced this legislation to increase criminal penalties for stalking children and ensure that law enforcement officials are aware of and using best practices to combat online harassment of children. Upon introducing this bill, Sen. Toomey said, “Enacting this bipartisan measure to strongly punish deviants who exploit the internet to terrorize children is a necessary and common-sense step Congress should take.”

Original cosponsor Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) adds:

"This bipartisan legislation would give law enforcement and judges additional tools to keep young victims safe from adults who have stalked them and targeted them online. Stalking and cyberstalking offenses are uniquely invasive and distressing for victims and their families, especially when the victim is a minor. I urge my colleagues to support and swiftly pass this measure so that we can continue to fight against predatory behavior, keep our kids safe and ensure that they and their families have peace of mind."

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), sponsor of this bill’s House companion, says:

“We have no higher responsibility than to protect our kids. We must do everything we can to forcefully respond to egregious instances of stalking and cyberstalking, especially when committed against minors – the most vulnerable among us. The Combat Online Predators Act ensures that, not only are we increasing penalties for these crimes, but we are also requiring federal law enforcement officials to constantly evaluate and update practices to combat this online harassment.”

The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys’ President and CEO, David LaBahn, expressed support for this bill:

“One of the most important measures of an effective criminal justice system is how it responds to crimes against its most vulnerable victims. The Combat Online Predators Act will support prosecutors and create safer communities by enhancing the criminal penalties available against those convicted of stalking minors.”

This legislation unanimously passed the Senate with the support of one Senate cosponsor, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). Its House companion, sponsored by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), has six bipartisan House cosponsors, including three Democrats and three Republicans, and has not yet received a committee vote.

The National Center for Victims of Crime and Association of Prosecuting Attorneys support this legislation.


Of NoteThis legislation was inspired by the story of the Zezzo family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Their teenage daughter, Madison, was cyber-stalked by a friend’s father on social media when she was 13. Despite the sexual nature of the stalking, the then-51-year-old stalker was only sentenced to probation and counseling after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor. Three years later, the same stalker began making contact again and was ultimately arrested in a local police sting and sentenced to 18 months to seven years in a Pennsylvania state prison.

After this bill’s Senate passage, Sen. Toomey added:

“As a father, I cannot imagine the pain and anger the Zezzo family experienced. The passage of this bipartisan bill is a tribute to their perseverance to ensuring that we have strong penalties for monsters who use the internet as a tool to stalk children. I urge my colleagues in the House to pass this bill quickly so that the president can sign it into law."

The Zezzo parents, Erin and Tony Zezzo, expressed support for this bill after its passage: 

“Technology and the onset of social media has far surpassed our current federal and state legislation and this bill is a critical first step in providing for the safety of those most precious to us, our children. Individuals who commit these heinous crimes, prey upon, and cyberstalk our children, need to know that the penalties are severe. Every state must now take a look at their current stalking laws, ensure that all gaps are closed, and that our children are protected at all cost. The fear a stalking victim feels is indescribable, debilitating, and humiliating and the scars left behind are there for life. The online evidence will also never go away. This is no way to live your life, especially for a child, and this bill is a first step in making the much-needed changes to our cyberstalking laws and prevention of such crimes."

Under current law, it is a federal crime for an individual to harass or intimidate another individual in a way that places them in fear or physical harm or causes them significant emotional distress, whether in person or online. The maximum penalty for such crimes is five years in prison; the maximum sentence increases to 10 years in prison for crimes in which the perpetrator causes serious physical injury to the victim or uses a dangerous weapon.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / PeopleImages)

AKA

Combat Online Predators Act

Official Title

Combat Online Predators Act

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
    IntroducedJanuary 15th, 2019
    If the Senate has time for this, they have time to protect children from starvation and incarceration and homelessness.
    Like (24)
    Follow
    Share
    I think we need a law that bans cellphone and social media use by all kids under the age of 16. I’m sort of kind of serious about this! Eliminate stalkers and improve the physical, mental and emotional health of our children all at once.
    Like (10)
    Follow
    Share
    Stalkers of children should get life as they aren’t going to change and will endanger children if released.
    Like (21)
    Follow
    Share
    If a person gets convicted of stalking, I can assure you that the person has done more than stalking...the charges have been plead down & just to get a conviction is a major deal. I am all for harsher sentences for stalkers/pedophiles and a National Registry easily accessed for those who are released back into society. To date, there is no successful treatment for pedophilia.
    Like (21)
    Follow
    Share
    Absolutely! I support it! Now where is the Covid-19 relief?!
    Like (12)
    Follow
    Share
    Perhaps I am missing something, but this bill does not address the issue. It talks to increasing the "maximum" penalty, which is fine, but does not mandate a minimum. Since the sentencing will still be left to the courts, how does this prevent the same that happenend in the Zezzo family case, which, I am assuming that since they are using it as an example that the sentencing of probation and counseling was not harsh enough.
    Like (6)
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    When any crime is committed against those that can not protect themselves, yes place the maximum punishment on the criminal.
    Like (6)
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    Stalkers do not change after being incarcerated. It is a personality issue and the behavior continues. Stalkers of children are a whole different breed and the welfare and protection of our children should come first
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    There are an abundance of creeps out there and not enough parenting especially when it comes to the internet. Let the marijuana offenders go and put child predators in for longer!
    Like (5)
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    10 years does seem low, and maximums are fine to have because we still have a judge and jury to determine if the case deserves the maximum.
    Like (4)
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    Our children must be protected. There’s no excuse or argument to the contrary. Children should not have to live in fear of adults & the punishment for people who make our children afraid has to be severe. On top of this, 10-15 years would allow the child to grow up & better defend themselves if their stalker/attacker seeks revenge upon release.
    Like (3)
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    Yes
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    Penalties for traitors need to be increased #GoExtinct #MoneyLaunderer #MobBitch #GOPTraitors
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    Seems like this law would enhance already existing laws and help I force cybercrime. I am hoping we have all the facts.
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    Whatever the max is...double it! Keep them in isolation out for 2 hrs of daylight daily ONLY!
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    They need counseling with prison time
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    Are evil industrial incarceration system needs no more victims.
    Like (2)
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    Let judges and juries decide this stuff on a case by case basis. Stalking is a state issue anyway. The Feds have enough to worry about without sticking their nose in state business and sticking their nose into the judicial branch s business.
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    This seems like a no brained.
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    No brained! Protect our children!!
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