VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A local delegate is hoping to get a bill passed through the General Assembly that will allow people to prosecute others who have sent them unwanted or obscene photos.
Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler, who represents the 21st District, is the co-patron of House Bill 2254 and says it’s gotten bipartisan support.
“Everyone is on board with the intent of this bill and I think that’s what will make it successful,” she said.
Convirs-Fowler is a real estate broker and says the idea came to her after hearing from other real estate agents about them being the recipients of lewd photos.
“A lot of agents spoke out and said ‘Yeah, I’m getting a lot of unsolicited pictures, obscene pictures,'” she said. “It dawned on me that our phone numbers are out there as real estate agents and we need to be mindful of it. And, finding out it wasn’t even against the law, explicitly in the law, we needed to tighten up the language to make sure women or anyone doesn’t get an obscene picture.”
The bill, which just unanimously passed a House of Delegates subcommittee, would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor violation, for which the maximum penalty is 12 months in jail or a fine.
Convirs-Fowler says many representatives were surprised to find there wasn’t a specific section in the state code already in place. She wanted to include it so they could prosecute just like they do indecent exposure.
“If that happens in public, someone can be prosecuted. That’s different. If someone Air Drops me a photo of their private parts, then there’s nothing in the code that says I can really do anything about it. This lets people know this is not OK and now something can be done about it,” she said.
The delegate believes that if passed, this bill will be monumental for expectations in communications regarding messages and devices.
She hopes that having laws like this will make it a safer place online for all, including her three daughters.
“The 12-year-old has a cell phone. I constantly monitor it and make sure I know what’s going on and [put] parameters on it, but as technology advances, I’m not as good with the tech as she is becoming. I want to ensure the world is a safe place for my girls as they get older,” Convirs-Fowler said.
She says they worked with attorneys and advocacy groups to get the language right for the state code.
“I hope this bill sends a message that it is not OK to send obscene unsolicited pictures and it will be against the law and you will be prosecuted. I hope it creates a situation where people know they can not do this and it’s not allowable,” she said.
The bill is headed to the Virginia Senate.
When it’s voted on, Convirs-Fowler hopes that representatives will take it seriously. She used an example of bald members jokingly voting against hairstyling bills to prove her point.
“There’s a cultural shift too. I do have some fears about this bill. I hope everyone takes it extremely seriously,” she said.