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Kentucky Senate to Hear Bill that Would Reduce Penalty for Underage 'Sexting'
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A measure that would reduce the punishment for Kentucky minors who send nude photos of themselves online or by cellphone is moving through the state legislature.

Under current law, people under the age of 18 who engage in so-called sexting can be charged with a felony. 

The bill approved Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee would make the first offense a violation.

Committee Chair Whitney Westerfield supports the change. 

“Have some punishment for the conduct of these kids, but don’t saddle them with something that follows them the rest of their lives when they do stupid things that sometimes kids do,” said Westerfield.

Bill Sponsor Joe Bowen says many judges are hesitant to impose a felony penalty for this type of conduct, so no action is taken.   He believes sexting is a pervasive problem across the state. 

“I have a school teacher back in the Davies County School System that wants to bring her class up here on the day that this bill is heard on the floor as a teaching moment because she has seen this in action,”  Bowen explained.

Also testifying in support of the bill was Rebecca B. DiLoreto with the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. 

“What we know is we’re not getting the message across, so the only thing that I would recommend in terms of an improvement to the bill is to mandate education whether it be at the violation level or the misdemeanor level,” noted Deloreto.  “I think education is essential.”

Todd County Attorney Mac Johns says there is a possibility of fines with violations of this type but he says they are rarely imposed at the juvenile court level. Under the measure, a second offense would be a Class B misdemeanor.

Stu Johnson is a reporter/producer at WEKU in Lexington, Kentucky.
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