Juveniles sending nude images of themselves or others via computer or smart phone could be charged with a misdemeanor under a bill passed in the Kentucky Senate Thursday. Currently, such an act is a felony, which bill proponents say judges are hesitant to enforce.
Hopkinsville Senator Whitney Westerfield believes the lesser charge still sends a message. “This allows them to have a criminal penalty and face consequences, but hopefully use it as a learning exercise and not carry a felony conviction, much less sex offender registry, for the rest of their lives,” said Westerfield. The original measure would have made the act a violation.
The chamber backed Wilder Senator Will Schroder’s floor amendment to make it a class B misdemeanor on first offense. “By going this route, judges can have more than a fine and could have community service, educational requirements, something a little bit more than a fine,” explained Schroder. “That is the purpose of senate floor amendment number one.”
Students from Owensboro’s Burns Middle School attended the senate session. Afterwards, teacher Robyn Hetman says the eighth graders, part of the Kentucky Youth Assembly program, say it’s a serious problem and are supporting the legislation. “This is a big problem. It’s a huge problem and if we close our eyes to it, it’s gonna get nothing but worse,” said Hetman.
The bill now moves on to the Kentucky House.