Those who lie about their ages online while attempting to lure children into sexual acts would get up to 15 years in prison if a state lawmaker has his way. It’s the second straight year Rep. Bob Robson, R-Chandler, the House speaker pro tempore, has taken on those preying on children via the Internet.
He championed a 2007 law requiring registered sex offenders to give authorities their e-mail addresses, accounts for social-networking sites and online-chat aliases.
HB2129 would make it illegal for adults to deceive children about their ages while attempting to engage in sexual relations with them. As a Class 3 felony, the offense could carry between five and 15 years in prison.
In a news release, Robson said online predators represent a growing danger to children. He didn’t return a call seeking comment; his office said Robson left town Thursday afternoon.
Robson’s bill is similar to measures passed in a number of other states, said Xavier Von Erck, director of operations for Perverted Justice, a Portland, Ore.-based organization dedicated to fighting online sexual predators.
“It sounds like something that seems very common sense,” Von Erck said.
But Von Erck said lawmakers also should address the psychological problems driving people to pedophilia.
“Our hope is that any law enacted takes in to account that this is a medical disorder and sees that there is some state-mandated mental counseling and help,” he said.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said Robson is on the right track, but he said the bill will require clarification as to what constitutes misrepresenting one’s age online.
“It is going to be a difficult statute to enforce, and that is my biggest concern,” he said.
Goddard said authorities must balance public safety with the rights of Internet users.
“We have to be careful that we continue to facilitate the free exchange of ideas and commerce while protecting minors from sexual predators, and occasionally those two goals run into each other,” Goddard said.