Bill would ban possession of child pornography Sponsor agrees to a "watered-down" version of measure.

April 01, 1992|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- Possession of child pornography would be illegal in Maryland under legislation the General Assembly enacted yesterday.

The legislation, aimed at consumers rather than sellers, would make it a misdemeanor to "knowingly" possess films, videotapes or photographs of children under 16 engaged in sexual acts.

However, parents could have nude photographs of children, as long as the children are not engaged in sexual conduct or sadomasochistic acts.

Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat, has been trying for three years to pass child pornography legislation, but his bills have died in the House Judiciary Committee.

This year, he said, he agreed to House amendments that weakened the bill and made it conform to House legislation introduced by Del. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., R-Baltimore County.

Mr. Stone wanted the crime to be a felony on second offense, and also wanted to extend it to cover children under 18.

"We accepted the amendments rather than lose the bill," said Mr. Stone. "We're not really happy with all the amendments, but at least we'll have something on the books."

Maryland, which already bans the sale and distribution of child pornography, has become the 26th state to enact a possession law.

The Supreme Court already has addressed First Amendment issues involving similar legislation elsewhere, Mr. Stone said, so he expects no constitutional challenges.

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