The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., to protect children by increasing federal criminal penalties for stalkers of minors, including those who engage in cyberstalking, by up to five additional years. The bill, called the Combat Online Predators Act, H.R. 4203, also directs the U.S. Department of Justice to evaluate current federal, state, and local enforcement of anti-stalking laws and to identify best practices. These best practices can be shared with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors around the country to help secure convictions in these difficult cases.
“Cyberstalking is a serious threat to the safety of our children and, as a parent, I believe we must do everything we can to stop it,” said Murphy. “Our bipartisan bill will increase the maximum criminal penalty for stalking and cyberstalking of minors to send a clear signal that this atrocious crime will not be tolerated. It will also enhance the ability of law enforcement agencies to better identify and respond to cyberstalking so that parents can have greater peace of mind that their children are safe from predators. I’m encouraged that the House approved our bill today with overwhelming bipartisan support, and I urge the Senate to take it up immediately.”
“We must do everything we can to forcefully respond to egregious instances of stalking and cyberstalking, especially when committed against minors – the most vulnerable among us,” said Fitzpatrick, the only former FBI Supervisory Special Agent and federal prosecutor in Congress. “The ensures that, not only are we increasing penalties for these crimes, but we are also requiring federal law enforcement officials to constantly evaluate and update practices to combat this digital harassment. There is still work to be done at the state level, but today’s passage shows we are serious about making these needed changes at the federal level.”
Murphy has now authored or co-authored 13 legislative measures that have passed the U.S. House of Representatives, eight of which have become law, since she assumed office in January 2017.