Today New Jersey became the 46th state to pass the Jessica Lunsford Act toughening penalties against those who sexually assault children under the age of 13.

If found guilty of the crime, the offender would serve a sentence of at least 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole – with the caveat that a prosecutor would have the ability to negotiate a shorter sentence of 15 years if the Attorney General deems it’s in the best interest of the victim.

Critics of the law say that it doesn’t necessarily protect children; and may have dire consequences for older teenagers who have relationships with younger children.

According to this:

The Jessica Lunsford Act requires judges to sentence those convicted of aggravated sexual assault against children under the age of 13 to at least 25 years in prison without parole. Previously, the crime held penalties of 10 to 20 years.

The Republican governor privately signed the measure last month, but today's event was a ceremonial signing attended by many of the legislation's sponsors, as well as dozens of children and teenagers.

Florida passed a law named after Jessica the year she was murdered. Around the same time, Assemblyman Eric Munoz (R-Union) worked with her father to introduce a similar bill in New Jersey.
The measure had 72 sponsors and co-sponsors but stalled for years in the Legislature. Critics have said the increased penalties don't make children safer and may hurt teenagers who have relationships with younger children.

But after Munoz died in 2009, his wife was elected to his seat and continued fighting for the bill's passage.

"He made a promise to him to get this passed," Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-Union said today. "Eric always kept his promises. This is an important day for New Jersey."

The law allows prosecutors to negotiate a shorter sentence — of no less than 15 years without parole — if the state Attorney General's Office determines it's in the best interest of the victim.

But state Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington), a co-sponsor of the bill, urged judges to impose the strictest sentences.

Given that this law had been stalled in the legislature for some time gives me reason to believe that they've had plenty of time to look over whatever possible flaws in the law could exist.

Or I would hope that they would have.

Does the Jessica Lunsford Act Go Far Enough or Too Far in Punishing Those Who Sexually Assault Children?