The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 10, 2013

Senate committee tackles ‘sexting’ by W.Va. juveniles

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON — Moving into the cyber world, the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed Tuesday to crack down on “sexting” by juveniles in West Virginia.

Existing law already specifies that it is illegal to transmit sexually explicit photos or images via modern technology.

In an effort to discourage such activity by juveniles, lawmakers are prepared for a Senate vote on an amended bill that would allow a court to send a young offender to an educational diversion program.

Such a program would be developed by the state Supreme Court for minors.

If such a program is organized, the bill says it would focus partly on “how the unique characteristics of cyberspace and the Internet, including searchability, replicability and an infinite audience can produce long-term and unforeseen consequences for sharing sexually suggestive or explicit materials.”

In another matter, the Senate committee also approved a House bill that allows a home owner or authorized guest to shoot a firearm within 500 feet of the dwelling.

The measure stipulates that all residing in the house have no objection and that the firearm be fired in “a lawful manner.”

One part of the legislation increases from 400 to 500 feet the buffer zone to afford schools and churches more protection when firearms are discharged, so that the distance is consistent with that for homes.

The bill also adds penalties ranging from $50 to $500, and a jail term of up to 100 days.

“One hundred days seems like a pretty stiff penalty,” Sen. Bob Williams, D-Taylor. “Is that consistent with other penalties of other similar violations?”

While not sure, the Senate counsel said most misdemeanors call for a punishment of six months to one year, while others are for a determinate number of days.

If a resident of the house is opposed to firing of a firearm, a violation would occur if one is discharged, the attorney pointed out.

“You would have to have the consent of everyone who lives in the house,” he added.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com