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Bill Outlaws Looking at Kids in Public

By Gerri L. Elder

If you don’t like the way that creepy guy at the bus stop or the park likes to look at your children and wish he would avert his eyes or simply go away, you’re not alone.

In Maine, lawmakers are serious about making that guy, and others like him, look the other way.

So serious in fact, that there is a bill pending that would make it a crime to leer at children in public places.

Bill Passed the Maine House

The bill that has passed the House in Maine adds teeth to the existing law on visual sexual aggression against children.

State Representative Dawn Hill began pushing for a change in the law after a police officer from Ogunquit, Maine spoke to her about a situation that he believed warranted legislative attention.

Police Lt. David Alexander was dispatched to a local beach after citizens called to report a man who appeared to be watching children entering the public restrooms.

Currently the law in Maine does not call for the arrest of people found committing acts of visual sexual aggression in public places, so there was nothing that Alexander could do except ask the man to move along. No arrest was made because the man was not violating the law.

After the incident at the beach, Alexander contacted Hill to ask for her help.

Hill agreed and pushed a change in the law making visual sexual aggression a crime in both private and public places through the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in the House.

Now both Hill and Alexander hope that the bill wins the approval of the Maine Senate.

They both believe that it is necessary to correct a flaw in the existing law.

Age Of Child Determines Class of Felony

The bill will allow for people who are arrested for viewing children who are between the ages of 12 and 14 in public places to be charged with a Class D felony.

If the children who are viewed are younger than 12 years old, the person leering at them could be charged with a Class C felony.

Seacoast Online reported that Hill argued before the committee that people using public restrooms have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The committee members agreed with her and decided that expanding the current law to include public places would not be unreasonable. The bill has also cleared a fiscal review and is now headed to the state Senate.

Police Praise the New Sexual Harassment Law

Law enforcement officials are in favor of the bill and say that they respond to a number of calls about peepers at the public beaches. There is also agreement among law enforcement that this bill would be beneficial to public safety and help protect children.

While the police have had their hands tied in the past, this bill would give them the opportunity to arrest people who are caught leering at children in public places and check the criminal history of public peepers.

Supporters of the bill say that this is a necessary step to provide some protection for children against sexual predators.

Concern About This Law Being Accidentally Applied

If the bill becomes law, there may be some concern among defense lawyers about how it is applied.

If a person with no criminal history smiles at a child in public because they genuinely like children in a non-perverted way, it seems that they could be arrested and charged with a felony.

Therefore, it could be argued that while the bill has good intentions, it may be too restrictive and violate basic human rights in the interests of protecting children in public places.