Rethinking Sex Offender Laws for Youths Showing Off Online
In Iowa, Jorge Canal is on the sex offenders registry because, at age 18, he was convicted of distributing obscene materials to a minor after he sent a picture of his penis by cellphone to a 14-year-old female friend who had requested it.
In Florida, Phillip Alpert, then 18, was charged with distributing child pornography and put on the sex offenders registry because after a fight, he sent a photograph of his nude 16-year-old girlfriend by e-mail to dozens of people, including her parents.
In most states, teenagers who send or receive sexually explicit photographs by cellphone or computer — known as “sexting” — have risked felony child pornography charges and being listed on a sex offender registry for decades to come.
But there is growing consensus among lawyers and legislators that the child pornography laws are too blunt an instrument to deal with an adolescent cyberculture in which all kinds of sexual pictures circulate on sites like MySpace and Facebook.
Last year, Nebraska, Utah and Vermont changed their laws to reduce penalties for teenagers who engage in such activities, and this year, according to the National Council on State Legislatures, 14 more states are considering legislation that would treat young people who engage in sexting differently from adult pornographers and sexual predators.
And on Wednesday, the first federal appellate opinion in a sexting case recognized that a prosecutor had gone too far in trying to enforce adult moral standards.
Not sure how I feel about this – I hate to see teens, even nominal adults like 18-19 yr-olds wind up on the sex offender registry for life basically for being idiots.
Obviously none of them understand that online nothing is ever deleted.