Child predators would face at least 15 years in prison without the possibility of parole under a new measure given preliminary approval Friday morning by the Maryland House of Delegates. The move came as delegates gave their final OK to two other sex offender reforms -- eliminating good-time prison credits and requiring lifetime supervision for violent and repeat offenders.
On Thursday night, the House Judiciary Committee signed off on the extended sentence for child predators. Anyone convicted of the second-degree rape or second-degree sex offense of a child under 13 would be subject to a mandatory prison term of 15 years without parole, a more than a threefold increase from the current penalty of five years with the possibility of parole.
The extended sentence for child predators and a plan to provide more information on the state's publicly available sex offender registry will come to the House of Delegates for a final vote next week.
Lawmakers vowed to scrutinize sex offender laws after the December killing of 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell on the Eastern Shore. A registered sex offender has been charged with capital murder in the case.
Del. Michael D. Smigiel, a Cecil County Republican the House Judiciary Committee, called the longer prison term and elimination of good-time credits the most important sex offender reforms under consideration this year because they provide "truth in sentencing."
But those two bills could face a tough battle in the Senate, which must approve them before April 12 if they are to become law. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which heard testimony this week on sex offender reforms, frequently rejects mandatory prison sentences and restrictions of good-time credits.