Sexting bill would divert teens from adult sex offense rules

first_imgOLYMPIA — Legislation aimed at keeping youth who send sexually explicit texts from being charged under adult sex crime laws has cleared the Legislature in Washington state.The bill, which passed late Wednesday night, would create a new group of crimes reserved specifically for minors who are caught with explicit images of other minors, attempting to solve what lawmakers described as a paradox in current law, where even youth who report a sexual picture or video can themselves be potentially charged with a felony — and even forced to register as sex offenders.A 2018 survey by the American Civil Liberties Union found 22 states had passed legislation that differentiates between teen and adult offenders, with varying specifics.Under the Washington bill, most of the new youth-only crimes would be set as misdemeanors, a status that would exempt convicted youth from having to register.Sexting — a combination of the words “sex” and “texting” — refers to sending explicit photos or videos over messaging services, a practice that has gained some popularity among teens who grew up with cellphones.“This is a statute written for dealing with child pornography, at a time when no one had cellphones,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra, a Redmond Democrat who voted for the Washington bill. “No one could even anticipate that we would live in the culture that we currently do, with our children actually sexting.”last_img read more