Kanawha County Pros. Attorney Mark Plants
Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants says he wants a law addressing sexting and young people on the books in West Virginia.
“This gives me a foothold to have some recourse and, right now, I don’t have any,” Plants said on Tuesday’s MetroNews Talkline from the State Capitol.
It was the same day sexting legislation for juveniles was expected to be introduced in both the state Senate and the state House of Delegates.
Currently, Plants says there is little he, as a prosecutor, can do about pictures of juveniles, either nude or in other compromising positions, that are making the rounds online or via text messages to individuals and groups.
Today’s technology makes it really easy, he says, to forward photos.
Often, Plants says, the young person pictured may have originally sent them to someone they trusted, but the relationship later changed and the pictures were distributed after that.
“This is, probably, the number one call I get from parents who are frustrated.” Plants says the activity can currently be defined as harassment, but he’s looking for a clearer prosecution path to serve as a deterrent.
As proposed, the law would deal with sexting exchanges between young people, juvenile to juvenile, and be handled in juvenile court where the records would be sealed. The criminal level, either misdemeanor or felony offenses, would be determined based on the number of times a photo is resent.
Earlier this week, Kanawha County Delegate Meshea Poore introduced a bill that, if approved, would encourage those in the Attorney General’s Office to create a diversion program for young people accused of sexting.
Sexting between adults is not against the law in West Virginia. Such activity is only illegal in cases where one person involved is over the age of 18, while another person involved is a minor.