Raleigh, N.C. — Kilah's Law, the bill that increases the penalties for those who commit serious child abuse, cleared the House Judiciary C Committee Wednesday morning. It next goes to the House Appropriations Committee.
"These penalties reflect what society already embraces," Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, told the committee.
The measure increases the severity of the felony charge that can be imposed when a parent or guardian inflicts serious injuries on a child. It roughly doubles the penalty to a minimum of 125 months in jail for the person caring for a child under 16 years old who inflicts serious bodily injury either intentionally or as the unintentional result of an assault.
The bill is named for a Union County toddler who suffered brain damage at the hands of her father. It has bipartisan support, with the only questions in committee centering on what level the felony should be and whether the state ought not to concentrate more on preventing such crimes.
"We do need to punish the offender, but we need to fund programs that help prevent this," said Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange.
Early intervention and education, she said, could keep children from being hurt in the first place
Other committee members said her point was well taken, but this bill was aimed at deterring, tracking and punishing offenders.
"When it comes to this point, I'm not sure what education would help," said Rep. Nathan Baskerville, D-Vance. "When it comes to this point, these folks have to go."
Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, said the bill may prevent some injuries by making offenders think twice.
"The harder we make it in terms of a penalty, hopefully it will be a deterrent," Davis said.
The measure passed on a voice vote. The Appropriations Committee must review it because of the possible increased cost to the court system.