CAPITOL BEAT: W.Va. senators work to expand protections against child predators

CAPITOL BEAT: W.Va. senators work to expand protections against child predators
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 4:27 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WVVA) - Senators in West Virginia are working to strengthen the code against those accused of sex crimes against children. A bill to be voted on Friday would make it a felony for adults to expose themselves to children for purposes of sexual gratification.

Currently, the code does not distinguish between victims who are adults or children. The charge is also only a misdemeanor up until the third offense. This bill would make the charge a felony on the first offense if the victim is 15 years of age or younger with 16 years being the age of consent.

“It’s raising the bar with not only the felony, but a $3,000 penalty,” explained Sen. Rollan Roberts, (R) Raleigh County.

Senator Roberts said attorneys are also working to clarify a requirement as to whether the perpetrators would be placed on the sex offender registry before Friday’s vote. “This is specifically for the younger ones, to try and protect them by putting some real penalties in place for the bad actors out there.”

Sen. David ‘Bugs’ Stover is also in support of the bill. “If the old trench coat guy comes up and flashes some adults, he’s going to get into some trouble. But if you do kids that way, it’s a whole new level,” he said.

While the bill is aimed at those who expose themselves to children for sexual gratification, it clarifies that breastfeeding mothers would be exempt under the law.

The bill is scheduled for a third reading and debate on Friday. If it passes in the Senate, the legislation will next be considered by the House of Delegates.