Vote Explanation for H.R. 1761 — Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017

I voted in favor of H.R. 1761, the Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017, which passed the House with bipartisan support, 368–51. As we continue to combat the scourge of child exploitation, this legislation expands current statute to make the production of child pornography a crime whenever a minor is engaged in sexually explicit conduct, regardless of intent.

Under current law, a defendant could admit sexual conduct with a minor and also admit to taking a photo of the conduct, but successfully prevent a conviction by arguing lack of intent to take the photo. For those convicted of engaging in the sexual exploitation of children, these offenders are subject to mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years, 25 years, or 30 years.

Opponents of this legislation argue that this bill would expand the classes of offenders to mandatory minimum sentencing at a time when our justice system relies too heavily on mass-incarceration. Additionally, teenagers who willingly send innocuous photos of a sexual nature to their friends may be prosecuted and required to register as a sex offender.

I am a strong supporter of criminal justice reform, and believe that it is imperative for Democrats and Republicans to work together to address this issue. That being said, it is unacceptable that a loophole in our judicial system allows sexual predators to engage in child sexual exploitation and avoid punishment.