Victims of Child Pornography Deserve Voice in Court, Civil Damages
~ New law in Florida provides victims the opportunity to be heard in court and seek civil damages against those who download and distribute their images ~
In 2008, key legislators unveiled new legislation to provide victims of child pornography with a voice in court proceedings against individuals who download and distribute images of the child’s sexual abuse. Similar to an established Federal law, the Exploited Children’s Rights Act entitles victims of Florida-based child pornography to seek no less than $150,000 per incident from perpetrators.
The Exploited Children’s Rights Act makes Florida the first state to allow victims of Florida-based child pornography to seek civil remedies against those who download images of that child’s sexual abuse. The law also allows the Attorney General’s Office to pursue these cases on behalf of the victims at their request. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are more than 210 children who have been identified as victims of Florida-based child pornography.
"Child pornography is the graphic representation of sex crimes against children, and we must take the strongest stand possible against those who perpetrate this disgusting activity," said Senator Dockery. "These individuals need to feel the full strength of our state's outrage."
"Florida has already made its mark as a leader against cybercriminals and those who download and distribute child pornography," said Representative Rivera. "With this bill, we are again taking the lead and standing up for these children who so desperately need us on their side."
While there is no current law in any other state court which provides victims with civil remedies, a similar Federal provision, known as "Masha's Law," passed as part of the Adam Walsh Act provides this remedy in Federal court. Like many other victims of child pornography, the images of Masha's abuse were distributed worldwide on the internet. In Congressional testimony supporting the legislation, Masha noted that the law at the time awarded greater monetary damages for downloading music and violating copyrights than those awarded to the children exploited for a lifetime through the downloading and distribution of the images of their own sexual abuse.
At the time the legislation was introduced, victims of child pornography did not receive information about their rights as crime victims which include support and financial assistance. Additionally, these victims were not notified about legal cases involving their images nor provided the opportunity to be heard at a perpetrator’s sentencing. The new law creates an electronic notification system which allows victims to maintain their privacy while still being heard and considered in criminal court cases. This system is a model for the rest of the nation.
The legislation was filed in the Senate by Senator Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland) as Senate Bill 1442 and in the House of Representatives by Representative David Rivera (R-Miami) as House Bill 605. Governor Crist signed the bill into law in July 2008 and it took effect October 1, 2008.