ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
HB 1836 (PN 2080) would create a new offense of child torture (children under 18), applicable to persons who have custody or physical control of the child. The offense is defined by 12 courses of conduct that are already heavily criminalized under current statute. If the offense of child torture does not result in bodily injury, it is graded as a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment and $15,000 in fines. If the offense does result in bodily injury, it is graded as a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment and $25,000 in fines.
HB 1836 creates an unnecessarily duplicative and dangerously vague new offense. Not only are the actions that comprise the offense of “child torture” easily chargeable under numerous existing criminal statutes, judges have the discretion to apply enhancements to a defendant’s sentence when warranted. This bill only serves to cast a wider carceral net that invites selective enforcement by police and serial overcharging by prosecutors.