Ward-sponsored pornography bill passes legislature

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 28, 2006


MONTGOMERY &8212; Attorney General Troy King last week gave high praise to the Alabama Legislature for unanimously approving his legislation to strengthen and modernize Alabama&8217;s laws to fight child pornography.

House bill 219, sponsored by Rep. Cam Ward, was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives. Senate Bill 118, sponsored by Sen. Larry Dixon, had previously been approved without a dissenting vote, and the Senate unanimously voted to concur with the amended House version, giving the bill final approval.

&8220;This is a crime that has plagued our society for generations and now these criminals are using 21st century technology to prey on our children,&8221; Ward said. &8220;This legislation gives prosecutors some real tools in the fight against these criminals.&8221;

King called child pornography &8220;the ugliest and smuttiest of crimes. It robs our children of their innocence.

&8220;The Alabama Legislature answered our call to enact tough new measures to catch the law up with technology,&8221; King said. &8220;Thanks to the Alabama Legislature, loopholes were closed so that those predators possessing child pornography, and those peddling child pornography, will be dealt with more severely.&8221;

Having passed both houses of the Legislature, the bill awaits the Governor&8217;s signature to become law, whereupon &8220;Alabama will send another important signal that we care about our children and that those who do them harm will face harsh consequences.&8221;

The approved amendments close a loophole in the law, officials say, which, in the past, only allowed prosecutors to charge pedophiles found with child pornography with a single count, even when the offenders possessed thousands of images on their computer. Now, prosecutors will be able to charge a separate count for each image discovered. It will also allow those who create those images to be charged with separate offenses for each child depicted in those images.

&8220;In effect, this legislation will allow prosecutors to increase punishments for those who prey upon our children,&8221; King said.

Penalties provided by the bill are:

u to knowingly possess child pornography, each count is a class C felony, punishable by one year and a day to 10 years.

to knowingly disseminate or display publicly, each count is a class B felony, with two to 20 years.

to knowingly possess with intent to disseminate, (and having three or more copies of the same depiction is prima facie evidence of intent to disseminate), each count is a class B felony, with two to 20 years.

for a parent or guardian to knowingly permit a child to engage in production of child pornography, each count is a class A felony, punishable by 10 to 99 years.

and, to knowingly produce child pornography, each count is a class A felony, with 10 to 99 years.

King&8217;s legislation has also inserted new language into the law in an attempt to help keep up with the advancement of technology by expanding the definition of &8220;matter&8221; to include video cassette, tape, record, DVD, or other content storage or images reproduced by using a computer or other electronic device.

&8220;This legislation sends a loud and clear message-child pornography will not be tolerated,&8221; he said. &8220;As a father and as attorney general, I am proud to stand here with those who led the fight to pass this bill. Without their leadership and tireless work, our children would be more vulnerable. I want to publicly thank Senator Larry Dixon and Representative Cam Ward for their unwavering commitment to our children.&8221;