New law would bar foreign sex offenders for 50 years

Lawmakers moved Wednesday to jack up the penalties for producing or distributing child pornography and also to modify the immigration law to bar convicted sex offenders for 50 years.

The changes in the pornography laws have been in the works since mid-2011. But the change in the immigration law appears to have been added recently, perhaps in response to the deportation of a twice-convicted child molester from Jacó.

The changes in the pornography laws are mainly to lengthen the jail sentences.

Production or reproduction of child pornography will go from one to four years to four to eight years when the measure gets a second positive vote.

Possessing child pornography will go to a term of one to four years from the current six months to two years.

Distributing child pornography will merit a term of from five to 10 years, up from the current one to four years.

The legislation also adds a section to the penal code that punishes anyone who distributes child pornography that uses images of an adult pretending to be a minor or uses drawings or other techniques that do not involve real children. The penalty is six months to two years in prison. The section would fill a gap in the current law.

The immigration change instructs immigration officers at the borders and entry points to reject anyone who has been convicted of a serious crime in the last 10 years either in Costa Rica or elsewhere. The measure also forbids entry to anyone who is being charged elsewhere with a sex crime even if the case is not concluded. And then there is the 50-year ban on convicted sex offenders, essentially a prohibition for life.

The immigration officers are supposed to use computer hookups to check on would-be visitors.

The package of changes received its first approval from the Comisión Plena I, a subdivision of the full legislature empowered to act of non-contentious measures. A second vote is required on a non-consecutive day, so the vote probably will be next week.

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