BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Posting criminal activity that results in bodily injury or death on social media for notoriety and publicity in Louisiana will soon be a felony, thanks to a change in state law inspired by the fatal stabbing of a teen at a Lake Charles Walmart in January that was streamed live on Facebook.
“A 13-year-old child brandished a knife on video before she walked into Walmart and killed another young lady, all on video, and then got in a truck and bragged on video that she killed this girl,” said Rep. Troy Romero, who introduced HB 395 in April. It was that and several other cases involving video of crimes shared on social media that led Romero to take action.
“It’s getting worse every day,” Romero said. “It’s been a disturbing thing for me to watch on social media as people post stuff, that’s almost a disgrace.”
The bill increases penalties for the crime from fines of up to $500 and six months in jail to a minimum $2,000 and up to eight years in prison. It passed unanimously in both the Louisiana House and Senate during the legislative session. Gov. John Bel Edwards signed it into law Tuesday. It will go into effect on August 1.
Romero says the Louisiana District Attorneys Association reviewed the bill and backed it, mainly because it gives them leverage in prosecuting cases against those committing the crimes that are caught on video.
“We don’t intend that people would go to jail for this,” Romeo said, adding that he is not opposed to recording video or the First Amendment right to do so. But he hopes it will serve as a deterrent for those who might be tempted to seek attention on social media by posting criminal activity, especially when it involves people getting hurt – or worse.
And while the Facebook Live video of the Lake Charles killing helped detectives solve the case with the arrests of four teens, Romero would prefer witnesses worry less about social media clout and more about helping others.
“Put the phone down and go help, call the police, something.”