LAKELAND, Fla. — Florida's Legislature on Thursday will decide whether to change its child porn laws to cover virtual child porn, a move that could potentially impact "teen" adult entertainment sites that have young-looking adults who appear to be adults.
Senate Bill 182, scheduled to go before the full state senate Thursday for a final vote, would redefine what constitutes child porn so it includes "any image depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct or such visual depiction that has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that a minor is engaging in sexual conduct."
The bill, pushed hard by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a longtime foe of the production and distribution of any form of pornographic content, picked up speed after two adult men were freed in separate appellate rulings after they had been convicted of child porn for pasting pictures of children's faces on pictures of adult bodies in sexually explicit poses.
Judd and state Sen. Kelli Stargel, who sponsored the bill, have been fighting ever since the appellate ruling to get a bill in place that would cover virtual material involving young-looking adults.
But attorney Lawrence Walters of Walters Law Group says the bill's verbiage goes too far.
"Few would advocate that this type of imagery is 'good' or 'valuable.' And it is always easy for sheriffs and lawmakers to jump on the bandwagon of protecting the children," Walters told XBIZ. "But the First Amendment exists to protect offensive, disgusting and even vile speech.
"There are many things we could do to make our children safer that would violate the Constitution, like search every student, every day, for drugs and weapons. The government could mandate that all children carry GPS devices so we know where they are at all times.
"A free society does not guarantee safety. It guarantees liberty, which includes inherent risks. One of those risks is that you might be offended by a cartoon drawing or morphed image that someone creates.
"The Florida bill substitutes presumed safety for liberty, which is antithetical to our founding principles."
If the state Senate passes SB 182, the bill would go to the governor who could sign the piece of legislation into law.