- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - In West Virginia, posting “revenge porn” is a crime and people convicted of non-violent felonies will have a way to reduce their criminal record to misdemeanors under new laws signed by Gov. Jim Justice.

Those are among dozens of measures the governor has signed over the past two weeks following the Legislature’s 60-day regular session.

Other new West Virginia laws will reduce wage bond requirements, increase fines for littering, impose prison penalties for trafficking in fentanyl, authorize Sunday hunting statewide and set a $150 limit on fees charged by health care providers for electronic patient records.

For non-violent felons, especially aimed at those convicted of drug crimes, the Second Chance for Employment Act was originally drafted by sponsors to enable people who turned their lives around to clear their criminal records entirely in a court petition. The amended version finally enacted allows petitions to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor, leaving a criminal record intact.

“In enacting this article, it is also the Legislature’s intent to improve the employment possibilities of certain persons while allowing the public notice of their actual conduct and prior transgressions without further penalty or diminution of employment opportunities,” the amended measure says.

In West Virginia, it will be a misdemeanor to intentionally display publicly, distribute or threaten to disclose sexually explicit or intimate images of someone else without their consent. A first offense is subject to a fine of $1,000 to $5,000 and up to a year in jail.

According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 35 other states and the District of Columbia have laws against revenge porn.

For bonds required of construction and mining companies to protect the wages and benefits of workers, a new law shortens from five years to one year the period when new employers must post them. It also exempts firms or corporations that have been in business in another state for five years, that have at least $100,000 in assets or are subsidiaries of companies in business for at least five years.

In the past decade, the state Division of Labor reports having cashed bonds by 40 deadbeat companies and paid $1 million in wages and benefits.

For misdemeanor littering, the penalty for dumping less than 100 pounds of trash will be subject to fines ranging from $100 to $2,500. Under the old law the top possible fine was $1,000. Penalties also will increase for dumping larger amounts of refuse on public or anyone else’s private property.

For fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid sometimes mixed with heroin and blamed for many recent drug overdoses, the penalty for manufacturing, distributing or possessing with intent to distribute is up to 20 years in prison. The minimum sentence for trafficking less than 10 grams is two years.

Currently 33 of West Virginia’s 55 counties allow Sunday hunting, while 22 disapprove, according to lawmakers. A new law will allow it statewide on private land with the consent of the landowner.

Regarding health care records, medical providers will be required to respond to requests within 30 days from a patient or his representative. They can charge a search and handling fee of $20 plus 40 cents for each page of paper copies, plus postage and taxes. For copies provided electronically, the fee is limited to 20 cents per page with an overall limit of $150 including the search and handling.

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