Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Strengthening Children’s Safety Act (H.R. 1842).
Chairman Goodlatte: This legislation, introduced by our colleague Mr. Ratcliffe, a former U.S. Attorney, strengthens child safety by closing two major loopholes in federal law.
This bill ensures that all offenders who have been convicted of crimes of violence face heightened punishment when they fail to register as a sex offender for a sex offense. This enhancement provides incentive for the most dangerous of offenders to update their verifications, assuring they do not go off the grid and re-offend. Currently, this enhancement applies only to those who committed crimes of violence under federal, tribal, D.C., or military law, and the law of any territory or possession of the United States, but inexplicably excludes state offenses from the calculation. This bill adds state crimes of violence as a predicate conviction, which addresses a loophole in the law.
Second, the bill ensures that enhancements for sex offenses are applied equitably throughout the U.S. Code. These offenses happen in every state, every county, and sadly, every neighborhood. They are ubiquitous. And while our military is overall filled with honorable and courageous men and women; on occasion, there are members who do not act honorably and are convicted of sex offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Currently, the recidivist provisions are not consistent with respect to conduct covered when someone has a prior sex conviction under federal and state law, as opposed to military law. For instance, under current law, an offender with certain prior military child pornography convictions would not qualify for an enhancement that someone convicted under a federal statute would – even if their conduct was the same. The Ratcliffe bill addresses that inconsistency.
I want to stress to my colleagues that this bill, like the others we will consider today, does not create or increase any mandatory minimum sentence. What it does is ensure that the sentences on the books – which apply to some of the most horrific crimes against children – do not contain loopholes which can be exploited by those who prey upon children.
We must make sure laws apply equally and recidivists are punished appropriately.
I commend Mr. Ratcliffe for his work on this bill and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.