CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons signed into law Monday a bill that makes it a felony to knowingly view child pornography over the Internet.
Under Assembly Bill 88, a person who intentionally views photographs or films depicting someone younger than 16 in “sexual conduct” is guilty of a felony, punishable by one to six years in prison.
The bill was sought by Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and introduced by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
In addition to the penalties for viewing pornography, the new law also allows children used in pornography to file civil lawsuits to recover damages from those who depicted them in films or photos.
They can recover as much as $150,000 in damages, plus lawyer fees and cost. The person who filmed or photographed them in pornography does not have to be convicted of a crime before being sued.
Actions to recover damages may be filed when victim reaches age 18. Lawsuits must commence by the time a victim is 28.
“AB88 allows victims of child pornography recourse against those who are using their victimization for unconscionable purposes,” Masto said. “Although the bill came from the AG’s office, a collaboration with law enforcement agencies and the ACLU helped make the proposed law better.”
The state now can prosecute those who download images from the Internet onto their computers, but not those who just view them.
Forensic scientists are able to check computers and often find what images have been viewed by users, in addition to those that were downloaded.
During a legislative hearing, detectives said it is becoming more difficult to check all images because of privacy programs now available.
At the hearing, Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas, expressed concern that the law could be used against innocent people.
“I’m a nasty guy and I hate my neighbor,” Mortenson said, giving a hypothetical example. “So I tell him to go punch in this address and he goes there and he says, ‘This is terrible,’ and shuts down his computer. Then I call the police and say, ‘He’s a pornographer, go check his computer.’ He’s going to be in a lot of trouble and he’s going to be an innocent guy.”
Mortenson ultimately voted for the bill, which passed the Assembly 38-4 and the Senate 21-0.
Jason Frierson, a lobbyist for the Clark County public defender’s office, said the proposal could be used to catch people who follow links or have ads popping up on their computer screen.
The new law, however, states that the viewing of child pornography must be the “specific intent” of the person charged with the crime.
Contact reporter Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.