Rep. Schaffer Introduces Bill Increasing Penalties For Online Sex Offenders
Bipartisan legislation will require prison sentences for importuning
August 23, 2017
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COLUMBUS—State Representative Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) today introduced legislation that mandates prison sentences for criminals convicted of importuning, or soliciting a child for sex over the internet. Announced in a press conference today with joint sponsor Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid), the bill is a culmination of over a decade of work to update Ohio law aimed at protecting children.

“As the author of legislation in 2008 that brought Ohio’s importuning law into the internet age, I am pleased to continue the important work of protecting Ohio’s children from online sexual predators,” Rep. Schaffer said. “Along with Rep. Smith, whose expertise from his time in the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office has been instrumental, I believe having stronger penalties for importuning will not only keep offenders off our streets and computer screens, but also have a significant deterring effect on predators in our communities.”

The current law governing importuning requires the “presumption” of a prison sentence when the offender is convicted. However, reports analyzing sentencing data found that roughly 70 percent of importuning convictions result in the offender serving no prison time, often only receiving probation.

“By failing to put importuning offenders in prison, they often end up back on the internet using the same tactics again,” Schaffer said.

Reps. Schaffer and Smith were joined in today’s press conference by Chief Michael Tussey from the Village of Baltimore Police Department, Director David Frattere and Staff Attorney Carl Sullivan from the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force in Cuyahoga County, Officer Steve Grubbs from the City of Westerville/Franklin County ICAC, and Staff Attorney Camille Crary from the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

Under the bill, importuning offenders would now face at least a six-month minimum prison sentence, with the longest possible sentence extending up to 36 months. The penalties break down as the following:

• Importuning a child under the age of thirteen will carry a third degree felony charge on the first offense, carrying a mandatory prison term of nine to 36 months.
• Importuning a child over the age of 13 but under the age of 16 will carry a fifth degree felony on the first offense. Additionally:
o If the offender is 10 or more years older than the victim, then the judge shall impose a prison sentence of 6-12 months.
o If the offender is not 10 or more years older than a child victim over 13 but less than 16, then the presumption that a prison term shall be imposed that is in current law will be retained.
• Repeat offenders in either case will receive a mandatory one-year prison sentence.

This legislation is expected to receive committee hearings when the General Assembly returns for its fall legislative session in September.

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