Sharon Clahchischilliage
Sharon Clahchischilliage (Courtesy of New Mexico Legislature)

FARMINGTON — Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage has prefiled legislation that would expand the penalties for various child sex crimes.

Under the proposed legislation, a person in a position of authority who coerces a child ages 13 to 18 to submit to sexual penetration would be guilty of a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

A position of authority can include a parent, relative, household member, teacher or employer, according to criminal statutes.

Currently, the offense would likely be charged as a third-degree felony, punishable by up to six years in prison.

The proposed legislation would also modify the statutes defining second- and third-degree criminal sexual contact, removing a requirement that a child between the ages of 13 and 18 must suffer "personal injury" as a result of the forced or coerced sexual contact.

Removing the need to prove that the child suffered personal injury would likely make those offenses easier to prosecute, said Dustin O'Brien, chief deputy district attorney with the San Juan County District Attorney's Office.

"That is one less element we have to prove to get to that crime," he said.

Personal injury includes, but is not limited to, mental anguish, chronic pain, pregnancy and disease or injury to sexual organs, according to criminal statutes.

Finally, the proposed legislation would make aggravated indecent exposure to a child a third-degree felony. Currently, it is punishable as a fourth-degree felony.

The Daily Times reported last week that Clahchischilliage also prefiled legislation that would make attempting to peep on a child a felony offense.

Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, said both bills were crafted with help from the New Mexico Children, Youth and Family Department.

Like the anti-voyeurism bill, the child sex crimes bill was proposed in the last legislative session.

Clahchischilliage said it died in a house committee.

O'Brien said his office has been in discussions with legislators regarding the criminal sexual penetration statutes, but he was not familiar with the details of Clahchischilliage's bill.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and stgarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.