Yesterday the Senate passed SB 1458 [scroll down to the first full bill discussed], also called “Jessica’s Law”. I’ve blogged about this bill in the past and it really does provide for stiff penalties. It increases the mandatory minimum sentence for sexual assault of a minor under the age of thirteen to twenty five years.
This is also the bill that creates the “tender years” exception to hearsay. My thoughts on this are well documented. I do not like it and I don’t think I ever will.
Not all is bad, though. They amended the “Romeo and Juliet” law to increase the permissible age difference between participants to three years instead of two.
The sad thing is that the bill was based partly on incorrect information:
While the current trend among lawmakers is to move away from mandatory minimum prison terms, Kissel said this was one instance in which such enforcement is necessary. Research has shown that many sex offenders are prone to a pattern of behavior and could offend again if given the opportunity, [Senator] Kissel said.
No, not many. The latest studies show that sex offenders have the lowest recidivism rates. Also notable is the fact that law enforcement agencies have come out against high mandatory-minimums because it makes it difficult to prosecute. Defendants are less likely to accept plea deals and prosecutors have less flexibility in structuring an appropriate sentence.
Here’s another news article with a quote from a prosecutor:
Stephen Sedensky, the State’s Attorney for Danbury Superior Court, applauded lawmakers for taking steps to protect sexual assault victims.
“The legislature realizes the seriousness of these type of offenses and wants the sentences to reflect that,” he said.
He added that the 25-year mandatory minimum for the aggravated sexual assault charge could lead to fewer defendants taking a plea agreement and more cases going to trial.
“It’s too soon to tell whether that will be good for the victims,” he said, noting that the victims could be called upon to testify during a trial. “I’m anxious to see how it will play out in court.”
Well, time will tell how these statutes are utilized and whether they stand up to Constitutional muster.