Lawmakers hope to strengthen SC child pornography laws

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Being caught with naked pictures of kids is not enough to bust a pedophile. It's a legal loophole, uncovered in our last part of a series of special reports on child porn in South Carolina.

A naked teenager takes a picture of herself in the mirror and thinks she's sending the photo to someone her age, but instead, a predator is waiting on the other side of the screen. The scenario is all too real and it happens far too often.

Child pornography is at epidemic levels in South Carolina.

Deb Shupe, commander of the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, says the problem is getting worse. Infants are being raped on camera and photos are becoming more grotesque.

"It's burned into your brain and you can't shut it off," Shupe said.

Shupe's task force of 45 SC agencies has arrested nearly 400 people for child porn charges since 2005. During that time, Shupe says the law hasn't been on her side.

"South Carolina's child pornography law is extremely narrow," Shupe said."People that find out just how narrow it is are shocked."

Right now, the law says only those committing sexual crimes on children can be targeted. But what about the predator who sent out photos of the naked girl in her bedroom?

"It's not enough to just have a nude picture," Shupe said."There has to be some sort of sexual touching we can point to."

Unless house bill 3959 gets signed by Gov. Nikki Haley.

Rep. Ralph Kennedy introduced the bill last session to strengthen the state's child exploitation laws.

"Right now a pedophile or someone else who would be exploiting children can actually have nude pictures of children in sexually explicit state and it's not prosecutable under the current South Carolina statue," Kennedy said.

If the law is passed, it would add two words that Shupe says are game changers, lewd and lascivious.

Lewd is defined as crude and offensive in a sexual way. Lascivious is exciting sexual desires. Both words could put offenders behind bars for distributing and collecting pictures.

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