Sunday, January 22, 2017

SB1560-Norment Proposes a New Crime for Those Who Produce Child Pornography and are in Possession of It to be an Additional Charge. But What About the Teens Who Consensually “Sext”?

February 4 Update: 

VA Attorneys can’t agree if Bill lowers or raises the punishment!
I don’t feel so bad about my original post now. –Mary 

Senate kills Norment child pornography bill after questions over effect, accusation over motive, February 4, 2017

January 26 Update:

Claims that SB1560 LOWERS the punishment!
I may have been wrong in my interpretation of this Bill. –Mary 

Senate majority leader under fire for bill that reduces punishment for child porn production, January 26, 2017

Original Post:

Virginia Bill SB1560- Possession of child pornography where the accused has produced the child pornography sponsored/ Patroned by Thomas K. Norment, Jr. isn’t increasing the current sentencing for Possession OR for Production BUT it’s actually creating a new/additional crime for Prosecutors to stack onto Defendants who Produce. 

Read Full Text or Track Bill Status on Virginia General Assembly Website:

Track Bill Status, Cast Your Vote or Read/Leave Public Comment on Richmond Sunlight Website:

Now, when it comes to the Production of Child Pornography you will RARELY see me oppose any Bill, same with anything to do with profiting from Child Pornography. Compared to Possession or even Distribution (as long as it’s not for financial gain) of CP, then I will carefully look at the proposal and consider all issues with it and if needed I will oppose it. 
To create a new criminal offense the first thing to consider is, is this really needed. Is there an action today that we don’t have covered under or statutes that allows for a crime to go unpunished?   

Well, looking at this proposal I’d say NO. 

Currently anyone who produces and possesses Child Pornography faces stiff punishments with mandatory minimum sentences in a State with no parole for BOTH crimes. No one is “falling through the cracks”, in fact in Virginia until this past July Possession of CP  had a harsher punishment than Production and if  2017’s SB1278 and HB2039 are successful and become law this coming July, we revert BACK to THAT! 

So…….SB1560 is JUST overkill with a way for Virginia’s Commonwealth Attorneys to stack even more charges onto Defendants and I expect the Fiscal Impact Statement (which is not available as of today) will be VERY high. 

But if THAT isn’t enough of a reason for this Bill to die, how about this………….. 

Consensual Teen “Sexting” can be charged as Child Pornography in Virginia because so far the Virginia Legislature has flat-out refused to add a 4-year age gap allowance to teenagers who are not forced, threatened, intimidated or extorted when they take and send images of themselves or of each other. They can both be under-age or one under 18 years old while the other is 18 or 19 years old both facing  felony Child Pornography statutes with a lifetime on the public Virginia State Police Sex Offender Registry as a “Violent”.

In 2015 (2016’s numbers won’t be available until this June) 96 Juveniles were arrested in Virginia for Child Pornography. These arrests include Juveniles looking at photos/videos of Juveniles, Juveniles taking photos/videos of themselves, Juveniles sending photos/videos of themselves and Juveniles receiving photos/videos of other juveniles. But some are juveniles who may have forced, threatened, intimidated or extorted another juvenile or perhaps photographed them without their knowledge or permission. We’ll never know how many 18 and 19 year olds who were in age-appropriate relationships and “Sexted” with a younger girlfriend or boyfriend were arrested because they’d fall into the adult count, not the juvenile count of CP arrests. 

If an adult has sexual abused a child and produced images or videos of that abuse then they can and should be prosecuted under  both our Production and Possession laws in additional to the sex crimes they committed against the child 

BUT we should not be casting the new so wide that rogue Commonwealth’s Attorneys can use these laws against teenagers who consent to the taking, sending or receiving of the image with their friend or partner. 

For SB1560 to move out of Senate Courts of Justice Committee a 4-year age gap allowance amendment MUST be added . It could even have a "floor" of 13 years old if that makes the Legislators feel better about it. But it should NOT use the terms “minor” or “juvenile” to exclude the 18 and 19 year olds in age-appropriate relationships. If they want to add a "ceiling" of 19 years old again that would be fine in my opinion if that makes everyone feel better. 

Everyone should be concerned if a Bill has unintended consequences and/or collateral damage and THIS Bill DOES!

Please Email or call your one Virginia Delegate and your one Virginia Senator and ask them to add an amendment to prevent teenagers who “Sext” from being swept up in this new crime and if you oppose the Bill outright because it’s unnecessary (which it is) tell them that, to oppose it! But don't stay silent.

Thank you.

Mary Devoy