New Law Criminalizes Sexual Extortion, Signed by Governor Murphy

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed a new law aimed at curbing sexual extortion. The bipartisan legislation aims to deal with the increase in such acts, as the digital age creates new and more avenues for bad actors. The new law stipulates that any individual found guilty of coercing another person into sexual contact or providing explicit images or videos will face stricter penalties. This is either if the act was committed under threat of disclosing explicit sexual videos or images of the victim or that the victim’s person, property, or reputation could be negatively impacted.

Governor Murphy noted that in the digital age, there is an urgent need to expand the protections we offer our residents to address threats that may arise online. As the number of cases of sexual extortion continues to rise across the United States, the Governor stressed the need to work tirelessly to keep the residents of New Jersey safe from exploitation and victimization. The Governor believes that this legislation will modernize our laws by increasing the legal protections for victims of sexual extortion.

In support of the Governor’s position, Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin offered his thanks to the Governor and the New Jersey legislature for taking these steps to strengthen the tools used to protect those who are most vulnerable to victimization. Platkin believes that this law will act as a severe warning to anyone who attempts to exploit residents of the community through criminal conduct.

The law defines the term “disclose” as including the following activities: sell, manufacture, give, provide, lend, trade, mail, deliver, transfer, publish, distribute, circulate, disseminate, present, exhibit, advertise, offer, share, or make available through the Internet or by any other means an explicit image or video of a victim.

Under the new legislation, sexual extortion is a crime of the third degree. For this level of crime, the penalty includes imprisonment for between three to five years, up to a $15,000 fine, or both. Aggravated sexual extortion is considered the act of sexual extortion committed on a child under 18 or on an adult with a development disability. A crime of the second degree is generally punishable by a term of imprisonment of between five and ten years, up to a $150,000 fine, or both.

The members of the New Jersey state Senate are the primary sponsors of S653/A343, and they include Senators Steve Oroho and Fred H. Madden Jr. Other sponsors of the legislation include Assemblymembers Aura Dunn, Angelica Jimenez, and Carol Murphy.

Several senators spoke in support of the new law. Senator Oroho thanked the Governor for signing the new legislation which would protect victims of sexual extortion by holding the perpetrators accountable. He also emphasized that with this law, law enforcement agencies would be able to identify, convict and punish criminals who engage in such despicable behavior. Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Dunn believes that predators who exploit, scam, and shame vulnerable communities in the digital age must be punished. She went further to state that sexual extortion is a growing threat, and only a legislative solution can address this trend.

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