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Mar 10, 2011 1:05 PM by Marnee Banks (KXLH Helena)

MT House passes bill increasing penalty for sex assaults

HELENA- The Montana House of Representatives passed a bill that would increase the penalty for sexual assault crimes.

Currently a person convicted of sexual assault is fined up to $500 and can be imprisoned for up to six months. But under Sen. Taylor Brown's bill, the penalties double for a second time offender then increase to $10,000 and five years in prison for a third offense.

"When we look at this bill, we find kind of a inconsistency with a lot of other statutes that we have, drunk driving, partner family member assault, the third offense is a felony and typical sentence is five years, violation orders for protection, stalking has progressively increased penalties, even cruelty to animals has increased penalties," said Rep. Cary Smith, (R-Billings).

The bill passed on an 89-10 vote. The bill has previously passed the Senate and if it passes a third reading it will head to Governor Brian Schweitzer's desk.

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