New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez announced several legislative proposals last month, which aim to alter the state’s Criminal Code in order to extend sentences for child abusers and predators.
The legislation would triple jail time for first-time child abuse offenders, increasing sentences from three to nine years. The legislation would also double the sentences for repeat offenders, with second-time offenders potentially serving 18 years in prison as opposed to just nine.
Gov. Martinez, a Republican, also wishes to extend New Mexico’s “Baby Brianna” law, which currently imposes a mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of killing under 12, with the proposed legislation levying life sentences for those found guilty of killing anyone under the age of 18 within the state.
The bill, introduced by state Rep. Al Park (D-Albuquerque) and state Senator Gay Kerman (R-Hobbs), would also stiffen penalties for drunk drivers responsible for accidents that result in the death or injury of children.
The bill would also criminalize both the act of “grooming” — befriending children with the intent of sexual contact — and exposing oneself to a child in a private setting, neither of which are currently crimes under the state’s Criminal Code.
Martinez, a former prosecutor, said that the state’s children should not have to live in fear of being sexually exploited by their parents or caregivers.
“People need to know that if you hurt a child, you will serve serious jail time,” she said. “We will not tolerate anyone who intentionally hurts the most vulnerable among us.”