AUSTIN (KFDX/KJTL) — A bill proposing tougher penalties for child pornography in Texas that is named in honor of missing Nocona boy Caleb Diehl is now only a signature away from becoming law.

After passing unanimously in the Texas Senate in April 2023, a revised version of Senate Bill 129, also known as Caleb’s Law, passed unanimously in the Texas House of Representatives on Monday, May 22, 2023.

The bill will now only awaits the signature of Governor Greg Abbott before it becomes law in the State of Texas.

If signed into law, the bill would update the criminal code regarding child pornography and allow for first-time offenders to be prosecuted based on the number of images they’re discovered to be in possession of.

Texas Senate Bill 129, also known as "Caleb's Law" was heard on Tuesday, March 21, 2023, during a hearing of the Texas Senate Committee of Criminal Justice. (97th District Attorney's Office)
Photo courtesy 97th District Attorney’s Office

Caleb’s Law was filed in January 2023 by Senator Drew Springer (SD-30), who said in a Senate committee hearing that Texas law regarding child pornography needs an update after more than three decades.

“Unfortunately, our child pornography laws have not been updated since 1989,” Sen. Springer said. “Back then, people used to have snapshots of disgusting vulgar things that they’d done to kids. Nowadays, it’s on the internet. There’s thousands and thousands of images.”

Photo courtesy 97th District Attorney’s Office

Judy Price, current Assistant District Attorney for the 97th Judicial District, has played a major role in developing Caleb’s Law and has been raising awareness and testifying on the bill’s behalf since it was first presented by Sen. Springer.

Price testified during a public hearing of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee on March 21, 2023, and during a public hearing of the Texas House of Representatives Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on May 9, 2023.

During her testimony in March, Price said that supporting SB 129 would be “taking a stand against pedophiles everywhere,” and passing the bill would bring Texas law up-to-date with technology and the access it creates for online predators.

“We’re no longer prosecuting an individual with a collection of photographs,” Price said. “We’re prosecuting individuals with terabytes of images.”

The bill is named after Caleb Diehl, a boy from Nocona who was reported missing in April 2015. The investigation eventually lead them to bring charges of sexually exploiting a child against longtime Nocona resident Ricky Dale Howard.

Though Howard is currently serving a 30-year sentence, Diehl is currently still missing.

The text of SB 129 can be found in its entirety below:

This is a developing story. Stick with Texoma’s Homepage for updates as more information becomes available.