By Gretchen Schuldt
Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill sharply raising the penalty for first-degree reckless homicide involving drugs from 40 years in prison to 60 years in prison.
The governor did not justify or explain his action in the press release announcing the signing, though he addressed reasons for signing another bill. The measure was introduced as SB101, and is now Act 29.
First-degree reckless homicide is charged when someone dies of an overdose after taking drugs, virtually always voluntarily. The charge can be issued against a drug dealer or even a friend who was with the user when the user purchased the drugs. Technically, the law prohibits causing the death of another person "by manufacture, distribution, or delivery of, or by administering or assisting in administering," certain drugs.
Opponents of the bill say it will prevent people who are with the victim at the time of the overdose from seeking help before death occurs because they are worried about prosecution.
Evers did not address that possibility.
Evers also signed a bill requiring increased transparency from the Parole Commission, including the requirement that additional statistics and information be published on the Department of Corrections' website. That bill, AB47, is Act 31.
Evers was more forthcoming about his reasons for signing this bill than he was in explaining why he signed the overdose bill.
“Ensuring transparency, accountability, and appropriate support and notification for victims, survivors, and their families is absolutely vital to the success of the Parole Commission and of our criminal justice system as a whole,” Evers said.
Justice-related bills pending in the Legislature include those below. A chart showing the sponsors of each is at the bottom of this post.
SB302/AB301 – Sexual contact lawsuits
This bill would allow more time for a childhood victim of incest, sexual assault, or sexual contact to sue the alleged perpetrator. Currently, the victim must bring an action before reaching the age of 35; this bill would raise the age to 45. In addition, it would apply to all adult offenders, not just clergy members.
SB313/AB313 – Failure to stop for a school bus
The minimum penalty for failing to stop for a stopped school bus with flashing red lights would increase 10 times, from a forfeiture $30 to $300, under this legislation. The maximum penalty would jump from $300 to $1,000. The bill also would require the Department of Transportation to assess three demerit points against the record of a person convicted of failing to stop for a school bus. Under the demerit system, repeated traffic violations can lead to the suspension of a person's driver's license.
SB314/AB315 – Possession of child pornography
Under this bill, the depiction of actual children engaged in real or simulated sex no longer would be necessary to be charged or convicted of possessing child pornography. Instead, possessing pornographic images of someone who looks like a child or of computer-generated or hand-drawn pictures of children would be enough. The bill, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau, would make it illegal to knowingly receive, distribute, produce, possess, or access, with the intent to look at, obscene photographs, film, motion pictures, or digital or computer-generated images or pictures that contain a visual representation that appears to depict an actual child engaged in sexually explicit conduct although the representation does not depict an actual child. (Imagine the arguments over whether that 16- or 17-year-old looks like a child or an adult!)
Violations would be punishable by up to 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The bill includes a three-year mandatory minimum sentence.
SB321/AB329 – Child sex dolls
It would be illegal to possess child sex dolls, under this bill. Such dolls are defined as "anatomically correct doll, mannequin, or robot, with features that resemble a minor that is intended for use in sex acts, for sexual gratification, or for manipulating children into participating in sex acts, instructing children how to participate in sex acts, or normalizing sexual behavior with children," according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.
Penalties for violations would vary depending on how many dolls are involved, past offenses, and past convictions for crimes against children. A first offense involving fewer than three dolls, for example, would be punishable by up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine. For a second offense involving at least three dolls, the penalty would be up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine; for a third offense, up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
The penalties are tougher if the doll is intended to represent a specific child or if the offender has been previously convicted of intentional child abuse of a child, first-degree sexual assault of a child, sexual exploitation of a child, use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, or possession of child pornography.
The bill also makes it a felony to provide premises for the use of a child sex doll, or to transfer, advertise, or display a child sex doll, instructions on how to create one, or materials intended to create one. The bill also prohibits intentionally making a child sex doll.
Exempted from the created prohibitions under the bill are law enforcement officers, physicians, psychologists, attorneys, court officers, and others involved in law enforcement or child therapy, as long as their sex-doll activity is done in the lawful performance of their duties.
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