House defeats tougher sex-offense penalty

Cheyenne, Wyo. – The House has rejected a bill that would have imposed a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for anyone convicted of first degree sexual assault against a minor.

The House voted 39-20 to defeat House Bill 98.

Proponents of the bill say the state needs to establish that it's tough on those who prey on children.

Opponents say that mandatory minimum sentences take discretion out of judges' hands and possibly punish teenagers who have consensual sex.

First-degree sexual assault charges are usually filed in cases when the victim is very young or the defendant exploits their position of trust over a child, such as when the perpetrator is a parent or stepparent.

Existing Wyoming law allows judges to sentence defendants to from zero to 50 years in prison.