KAKE TV – By Chris Frank

WICHITA – Some Kansas lawmakers say the punishments for teen sexting are too severe and need to be changed.

Rep. Ramon Gonzalez, a republican from Perry, says his bill is aimed towards rehabilitating middle and high school students caught sexting rather than punishing them with a felony and having them on a sex offenders registry for life.

Rep. Gonzalez is Police Chief in Perry, Kansas and a sheriff’s detective in Jefferson County. Gonzalez says, “If a 12 year old sends a (nude) picture to a 16 year old or vice versa it’s classified as a level 9 felony.” He asks, “Why would you want to penalize a young person like that with a level 9 felony?” He says they would also register as a sex offender.

He says with the bill’s changes, if a teen sends a nude photo of another teen or is caught possessing such a transmitted photo, it’s still a crime but a misdemeanor rather than felony.

He says, “The whole intent was making sure we don’t criminalize a child to that degree when the child’s brain is still developing as far as cognitive skills.”

Gonzalez says the teens are being “stupid” when sexting — sending sexually suggestive texts or explicit photo’s. But he wants them to have the chance at being rehabilitated.

Wichita criminal defense attorney Dan Monnat says, “Until these proposed amendments, the only Kansas law that applied to sexting were the child pornography or the child exploitation laws which carried lengthy prison sentences and lengthy periods of sex offender registration. Many viewed those laws as too severe to apply to the misguided acts or intentionally cruel acts of young people. As a result sexting in Kansas was either punished too severely or not at all.”

Monnat says the bill’s changes will give more latitude to courts. “The proposed amendments give judges and prosecutors a brand new tool with which to achieve more fairness.”

The bill came to the House floor Tuesday for debate. There wasn’t any opposition to it. On Wednesday it returns to the House floor for a vote and is expected to pass. The Senate is considering a similar bill.

See full interview at KAKE.com