‘Kami’s Law’ clears House Judiciary Committee
Bill to increase the penalty for first-degree criminal abuse to a Class B felony if the victim is under 12 years old
FRANKFORT— Children are the future.
That sentiment was clear on Wednesday when 12-year-old Kiera Dunk testified during the House Judiciary Committee meeting on a bill to increase the penalty for first-degree criminal abuse to a Class B felony if the victim is under 12 years old.
Last summer, Kiera met with House Speaker David W. Osborne, R-Prospect, to begin working on House Bill 263.
Committee Chair Rep. C. Ed Massey, R-Hebron, and Osborne are the primary sponsors of the bill, which is named Kami’s Law after one of Kiera’s friends. Kami is a Kentuckian and child abuse survivor.
“Kami was a beautiful 9-month-old baby when her life was forever changed when the man responsible for her safety shook her so violently that she was clinically dead for 23 minutes,” Kiera said. “Kami survived, but due to trauma only half of her brain remains.”
Current statute makes first-degree criminal abuse a Class C felony. Sometimes those accused of first-degree criminal abuse are given an opportunity to accept a plea deal for a lesser sentence. When this happens, he or she does not end up on Kentucky Caregiver Misconduct and Kentucky Child Abuse registries, Kiera added.
Kami’s Law would change that.
“One of the two reasons for bringing this (bill) is to make sure that raising (the penalty) or elevating it to the Class B level makes it a violent crime, which should be subject to registration,” Massey said, adding that violent offenders are also required to serve at least 85% of his or her sentence.
Kiera said under current statute, Kami’s abuser was only sentenced to five years in prison and was released from prison early.
“Kentucky has the highest child abuse rates in the nation,” Kiera said. “We need change.”
During discussion of the bill, Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, shared data with the committee that shows within the last two years there’s been a 50% increase in children dying at the hands of their caregivers in Kentucky.
The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved HB 263. The bill will now go before the full House for consideration.