House of Delegates
5:44 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

House Passes Bill to Enhance Penalties on Child Pornography Possession

H.B. 4006 adds those who access with intent to view as those who can be convicted of possession of child pornography. The bill would also add enhanced penalties for such offenses with aggravating circumstances. If the material contains more than 500 images of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, the offense is a felony punishable by a sentence of 18 months to five years and a fine of 10,000 dollars.

The House before passing H.B. 4006, relating to the possession and distribution of child pornography.
Credit Aaron Payne

One of the challenges in the bill’s development was how to address a video in regard to the number of total images in one’s possession. The bill would count each frame of a video as an individual image. To put this in perspective, standard television and a majority of videos that you will see on the internet run at 30 frames per second. It would take 17 seconds of video to surpass the 500 image mark.

This bill is one of many working around the House that focuses on protecting children. These bills have originated from a new committee formed by Delegate Linda Phillips of Wyoming County and other members of the women’s caucus.

“We asked the speaker if we could have a select committee on crimes against children with just the women’s caucus being members and he graciously agreed,” Phillips said. So we met from July through December with different topics but always crimes against children.”

The crimes against children committee developed House Bill 4006 and others alongside the crimes against children unit of the state police. This unit has been in existence for some time but, as its director Lt. Danny Swiger says, the unit’s role has changed.

“We have evolved into the investigatory arm of the child abuse and neglect cases,” Swiger said. “Our responsibilities have grown multiple times over from what the initial Child Protection Act was. We’re no longer just the overseers of certain things and we’re overwhelmed, quite frankly.”

Going forward, the committee hopes to introduce legislation that will assist the unit in its efforts so that not only will the perpetrator be put away, but the children affected will be taken care of.

The bill passed unanimously and moves on to the Senate.

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