Idaho House Death Penalty For Lewd Conduct On Children

Idaho lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday that would enforce the death penalty on convicted offenders charged with “lewd conduct” on minors under the age of 12.

House Bill 515, which passed with a vote of 57-11, was co-sponsored by Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa) and Rep. Josh Tanner (R-Eagle). Skaug, who is an attorney, elaborated that the death penalty would only be sought for repeat offenders.

“There is a deep, dark, dark side in our culture. And it’s our job to protect the children. There are times when things are so wicked that retribution is appropriate,” Skaug stated.

In Idaho, the only cases when the death penalty is on the table are those involving first-degree murder. State Republicans have tried to push for the death penalty in cases involving children in the past but were denied by the U.S. Supreme Court. Now that the court has a conservative majority, Idaho lawmakers decided to try again.

Some have argued that executing repeat offenders would be costly for taxpayers. Skaug stated that he was not concerned about the cost, rather he is concerned about the victims living with the fear that their attacker could be released.

Rep. Chris Mathias (D-Boise) also shared Skaug’s concerns. He said that these types of criminals live in “constant fear” and that the justice system will relieve them of the “burden that they should carry for the rest of their lives.”

While punishing anyone who repeatedly harms a child sounds like a just sentence, the bill has come under criticism by the leftist organization, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Idaho. Its spokeswoman, Rebecca De León, called the bill “unconstitutional.”

“House Bill 515 and any iterations of [it] have already been litigated in our country’s highest court and found to be unconstitutional. Our lawmakers should exercise a healthy respect for laws, law enforcement, and judicial review. This bill spits on the checks and balances our country was founded on,” De León said.

She also said that the best way to deter these types of crimes is through education.

In 2022, prosecutors filed 217 cases against adults accused of lewd conduct with children under 16, though it is unknown how many of the cases involved children under 12.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate for review.

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