SANTA FE,N.M. (KFDA) - The New Mexico's Attorney General's Office feels recently changed child pornography penalties are still not harsh enough for offenders, and plans to push for further changes.
During the last legislative session, House Bill 65, which was supported by Attorney General Hector Balderas, unanimously passed out of the Senate on a 40-0 vote and the House of Representatives on a 64-0 vote.
The bill increased the penalties for possession of child pornography from a maximum of 18 months to 10 years in prison. It also increased distributing pornography from a maximum of three years to 11 years, and manufacturing from nine to 12 years. It also allows for enhanced sentencing of an additional year in prison for possession of an image or video depicting a child under the age of 13.
The adjustment followed the Supreme Court's decision to combine all counts of possession into one count, meaning suspects could have four counts of possession, but the court classifies it all as one.
Government officials hope the changes will discourage criminals from other states flocking to New Mexico, something they said was a common practice due to the state's softer penalties.
Even with the changes, New Mexico's penalties are far below other states in the country. In Texas alone, the maximum charges for possession, distribution, and production of child pornography range from 20 to 40 years.
Even though the adaptations are a step in the right direction, many government officials in New Mexico feel they're still not enough.
Lois Kinch, an agent for Internet Crimes Against Children Unit and Task Force, said they may also seek increased probation and parole to lower the chances of repeat offenders.
"The offenders come out and they have obviously already shown a propensity to exploit children," Kinch said. "What we need to do with our system is also have a way to monitor them, to make sure that they have something hanging over their head so that they'll be of good behavior. We really do hope that once their incarcerated and get therapy in prison that they come out with some tools to better curb their behavior and not exploit children, but historically with our agency we see so many offenders violate and so I'm sure a longer period of probation and parole is something we're going to be pushing for."
Kinch said even though the Attorney General's Office is pushing for further changes, the progress they've made so far is still substantial.
"This change in the statute is so important because a lot of offenders they communicate with each other, historically we've been a state that has had very low penalties, sex offender registry situations so with this increase in penalty we're hoping that the message is sent out to everybody that you can't just come to New Mexico to prey on children," Kinch said. "That we take these offenses very serious, and that they safety of our children is eminent to us."