LINCOLN — Could kissing become a crime?
Stealing a smooch from someone without consent would land you in jail if a Lincoln state senator's proposal became law.
The idea, introduced Thursday, prompted a full-fledged smack-off of reaction on Omaha.com and Nebraska street corners.
Would wayward 3-year-olds in day care centers become criminals?
What about all those soldiers celebrating the end of a war?
“Of all the problems in the world, they have to dicker with kissing being illegal?” said Kathy Frizzell, assistant director of a Lincoln child-care center.
Frizzell wondered if that awkward peck after a first date or alcohol-fueled making out on New Year's Eve might land someone in the clink.
“Where do you draw the line?” she asked.
While the proposal smacks of Big Brother, State Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln said his bill addresses a serious problem.
He said he introduced Legislative Bill 797 because of a disturbing incident involving a family in his district.
A registered sex offender grabbed the family's young adult daughter while she was mowing the lawn and kissed her against her will.
Local prosecutors questioned whether they could prove the incident was a sexual assault. The man was ultimately convicted of disturbing the peace.
Avery's bill would add mouth-to-mouth kissing without a victim's consent to the legal definition of “sexual conduct.” That could lead to a longer stay in jail for a more serious crime: sexual assault.
An unwanted kiss doesn't quite qualify as a sexual assault under current law, said Chief Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon.
“A lot of people are trivializing this, but it's not a trivial issue if you were this family,” Avery said.
The unwanted kiss resulted in a three-month jail sentence, he said, but it could result in up to a year behind bars if the behavior was legally redefined as a sexual assault.
Frizzell said she, too, would be upset if a stranger planted an unwanted kiss on her. But in her job, she said, she's dealing more with kids who push and claw rather than pucker up.
“That's a learning moment where you need to jump in with a learning lesson, not a timeout,” Frizzell said.
Both Avery and Condon said a law on unwanted kissing would be a difficult statute to enforce. Avery said one prosecutor has told him his proposal might be unenforceable.
If that's the case, he said, even though it addresses a real problem, he'll kiss it goodbye.
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