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Prosecutors Push for Longer Minimum Sentence for Sex Abuse

Measure would set the higher minimum in sexual abuse cases against victims ages 12 or younger

BILLINGS — Prosecutors are pushing to restore Montana’s mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison for convictions of certain sexual crimes against children.

State lawmakers are considering the measure pushed by the Montana County Attorneys Association that would set the higher minimum in sexual abuse cases against victims ages 12 or younger, the Billings Gazette reported Saturday.

The state Legislature in 2017 reduced the minimum to 10 years as part of a larger sentencing reform bill.

Proponents of the measure argue the higher sentence is needed to restore greater protections for victims, who benefit by their attackers being locked up longer.

The higher mandatory minimum would apply to convictions of sexual intercourse without consent, incest and sexual abuse of children.

The measure would keep in place the current law’s five possible exceptions to the mandatory minimum, said Dan Guzynski, prosecution services bureau chief for the state attorney general’s office. One of the exceptions is available in cases where the perpetrator is younger than 18.

The Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence has been opposed to mandatory minimums for years, said Kelsen Young, the organization’s director. Most sexual crimes against children involve someone the child knows, such as a relative or a family friend, she said.

“For some survivors, the mandatory minimum is a barrier for coming forward and reporting,” Young said. Victims want the attacks to stop, but they might not “want the perpetrator to suffer that level of punishment,” she said.

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