ST. PAUL -- Tougher penalties and easier police access to computer files are needed to curb the growth of child pornography on the Internet, state lawmakers and police said Wednesday.
"These adults are not going to the playgrounds and schoolyards ... like they used to," said Rep. Wes Skoglund, who is sponsoring a bill to crack down on child porn.
Last week, a University of Minnesota professor was arrested after investigators found several thousand images of child pornography on his computer.
The proposal would increase maximum felony penalties for disseminating child pornography from five to seven years in prison on a first offense and from 10 to 15 years for a second or subsequent offense. It also would increase maximum penalties for possessing child pornography from three to five years on a first offense and from five to 10 years for second and subsequent offenses.
Offenders also would face fines, as they do now.
If the person is a registered sex offender, a first offense could carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison for possession or dissemination.
The bill also would allow Minnesota judges to issue search warrants that would extend to other states where computer files relating to Minnesota cases might be stored.
This could save precious time because files may be stored throughout the country. Currently, officials must get separate warrants from each local agency where files might be stored.
"Thousands of Minnesotans use Internet service providers like America Online, but while they use computers here, their data is stored at the AOL headquarters in the state of Virginia," said Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, who is sponsoring an identical bill in the Senate.
One possible snag is in the breadth of the computer search warrant provision because it would apply to computer crimes beyond child pornography, such as fraud.
The Minnesota proposal is modeled after a California law.
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