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Should 'Sexting' By Teenagers Result in Criminal Charges?

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal examines the relatively new issue of "sexting" among teenagers and how states around the country are trying to approach the behavior. Technology continues to rapidly change, necessitating the tweaking of existing sex crime laws to fit the reality of the times. Sexting involves the sending of nude or partially-nude photographs via cell phone. The practice has popped up in schools around the country, prompting school officials, parents, and prosecutors to scramble with how to deal with it.

Sexting could be the exchange of photos between a couple or could be a high-tech form of bullying or harassment. When the practice began, most incidences would fall under a state's child pornography laws, which most involved believe to be too harsh. A teen charged with child porn for sending a nude picture could end up with sex offender status, called a "scarlet letter" by one defense attorney interviewed by the Journal.

In New Jersey, lawmakers and other officials are trying to avoid criminal prosecution for sexting by teenagers. According to The Wall Street Journal, lawmakers in New Jersey are focusing on education and have proposed legislation that would require schools to educate students about the possible harms of sexting, including psychological, sociological and legal implications. Lawmakers are also seeking to require cell phone retailers to include information on the dangers of sexting when they sell mobile phones.

Most states, including New Jersey, seem to be leaning in the direction of allowing flexibility to the prosecutor. In this way, a prosecutor could look at the facts of the case and decide whether to send the teen to an educational program or charge them with a crime. The added flexibility means that a teen will not automatically face harsh penalties for sending or receiving a sext message, but it also shows that there is no clear answer for how the behavior will be addressed.

Source:

Are 'Sext' Messages a Teenage Felony or Folly? (The Wall Street Journal)

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