The Kansas House has approved a bill designed to moderate penalties for sexting among middle and high school students, which now can carry a prison sentence of more than a decade.
The chamber’s 123-0 vote on Wednesday sends the measure to the Senate. The bill is focused on 12- to 18-year-olds accused of transmitting images of a nude child, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
Under existing state law, prosecutors were restricted to filing a felony that carried a prison sentence up to 11 years and four months and lifetime registration as a sex offender.
The bill establishes three options with varying penalties for handling so-called “sexting” cases based on simple possession of the image, transmission of an image and aggravated transmission of the image. Depending on the offense, the penalties could range from up to six months in jail to prison time.
“It provides a targeted and appropriate response that is proportional response to the acts these children engage in,” said Rep. Blaine Finch, an Ottawa Republican.
Finch said the moderated sanctions would permit prosecutors to intervene with young people who commit these acts, but afford the individuals an opportunity for counseling or mental health treatment outside of prison.
He said the bill wouldn’t reduce the state’s penalty for an adult who possesses or transmits depictions of a naked child. He said it wouldn’t criminalize behavior from two juveniles who are over the age of consent, which is 17.
“It does not change current law that protects younger children under the age of 12,” Finch said. “It doesn’t criminalize family pictures.”