Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today gave the following statement on the House floor in support of the Strengthening Children’s Safety Act of 2017 (H.R. 1842).

Chairman Goodlatte: For victims, the effects of child sexual abuse are devastating.  It disrupts the victim’s development and increases the likelihood that he or she will experience other sexual assaults in the future.  And it is likely one of the most underreported crimes in the United States.  That is why we have to do all we can to prevent these crimes.

We promote prevention by closely monitoring sex offenders and by imposing recidivist enhancements on those who have shown a proclivity to abuse children.  H.R. 1842, the Strengthening Children’s Safety Act of 2017, closes two significant loopholes to help accomplish those goals.

First, the bill closes a loophole in the statute that criminalizes a sex offender’s failure to register. Under current law, a sex offender who fails to comply with registration requirements is guilty of a crime. An enhanced penalty applies to offenders who, while in non-compliant status, commit a federal crime of violence, a crime of violence under the D.C. code, a military code crime of violence, a tribal crime of violence, or a crime of violence in any territory or possession of the United States.  This is logical, since offenders who have been convicted of both crimes against children and crimes of violence are deserving of more severe punishment.

However, significantly, this provision fails to include offenders who have been convicted of crimes of violence under state laws. It makes no sense that a person convicted of a crime of violence under the D.C. Code is subject to an enhanced penalty while a person who committed the same offense in Virginia would not be. Given their propensity for violence, these offenders, regardless of what U.S. jurisdiction convicts them, must be held accountable when they fall off the radar.

The bill further ensures that those offenders who have been previously convicted of sex crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice are exposed to the same recidivist enhancements as those convicted of the same crimes in federal, state, and tribal courts. The way the U.S. Code is currently written, many of these federal recidivist statutes unintentionally fail to cover significant sex crimes committed under military law, including certain child pornography offenses. Again, it is important that repeat offenders are subject to the same sentencing enhancements no matter where they were convicted, in order to protect our children.

H.R. 1842 is common-sense legislation that closes loopholes in federal law, promotes uniformity, and will help keep our children safe.

I thank Mr. Ratcliffe for introducing this important bill and I urge my colleagues to support it.

For more on the House Judiciary Committee’s work to protect children, click here.