AUSTIN (KFDX/KJTL) — State Senator Drew Springer filed Senate Bill 129, known as Caleb’s Law, for the 88th Texas Legislature. Springer also recognized two assistant district attorneys who also had a hand in the bill, and they say it’s about time for an update.
“We haven’t updated our child pornography laws since 1989. Almost no one even had a cell phone. In fact, a lot of people watching probably weren’t even born back then,” Springer said.
The current law in place states there is only a third degree or second degree, no first.
“You can see how that’s an issue in itself,” 97th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Judy Price said.
Price says Caleb’s Law strickens the charge and now offenders face up to first degree charges and breaking up charges by volume.
“The way that your drug offenses do, the way the fraudulent use or possession identifying information statute works. Basically, the more you have the harsher the sentence,” Price said.
A person in possession of fewer than 100 visual materials will face a third degree, with more than 100 but less than 500 face a second degree felony, and 500 or more visuals will face a first degree felony.
Price and Nocona native and current Dallas County ADA Paige Williams said the work started on the cusp of the Ricky Howard trial anniversary. Howard is currently serving 30 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges of sexual exploitation of a child
Vicky Payne of Southern Grit Advocacy said the new bill is perfect as technology grows, predators are going to go where kids go.
“Anywhere there’s kids you gotta be alert and know who’s there and why they are there. Some adults cannot be trusted. and they’re predators. There’s just safety rules for kids but they’re really fo all of us that we never outgrow,” Payne said.
As lawmakers work to keep kids safe and strengthen punishments for those convicted.
“As Texas legislatures recognize the importance of our children and protecting our children. We’re serious about it and we’re going to get it done this session. If you’re one of the sick individuals, you know, we’d tell you today is a good day to leave Texas.”
Senator Springer expects a companion bill to be filed in the house and said whichever bill advances first, the plan is to run with that bill till it gets to Governor Abbott’s desk.
The bill also includes enhancements which could up the charge should the accused have visual material of children under the age of 10 and for those taking care of kids and receiving money from the state.
Read the full bill below: