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March 20, 2010

"Rethinking Sex Offender Laws for Teenage Texting"

The title of this post is the headline of this new New York Times article.  Here is an excerpt:

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. The opinion upheld a block on a district attorney who threatened to bring child pornography charges against girls whose pictures showing themselves scantily dressed appeared on classmates’ cellphones.

“There’s a lot of confusion about how to regulate cellphones and sex and 16-year-olds,” said Amy Adler, a law professor at New York University. “We’re at this cultural shift, not only because of the technology, but because of what’s happening in terms of the representation of teen sexuality as you can see on ‘Gossip Girl.’”

March 20, 2010 at 05:01 PM | Permalink


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That picture of Marissa Miller should not be called scantily clad by anyone sane. That outfit is appropriate for class or any other setting allowing casual dressing. The lawyer is nuts.

People over 14 are adults, according to nature, and according to 10,000 years of human history. The age of majority is yet another lawyer gotcha, and a way to keep a bunch of people out of the job market, and wasting their time in high school, a big baby sitting service, a waste of time, money, and most of all tax money. American high school sucks compared to that of most developed nations. Why? Because the lawyer has hobbled educators, and forced people who do not belong there to attend, with ruinous litigation and devastating prosecutions of parents when their kids play hookie.

Most of these sexting prosecutions are pretextual. They are trying to make a show of false virtuosity. They say, see, we are not vile feminist lawyers who need to be caned, and their male running dogs. We are not just on a rampage against the productive male. We are prosecuting little girls showing very little skin, too. Our witch hunts include victims.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 20, 2010 6:25:26 PM

The juvenile laws in this country are already out of hand as they are. What ever happen to kids will be kids: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2010/03/17/when-kids-commit-adult-offenses/

Posted by: Randy | Mar 21, 2010 5:02:50 AM

While I applaud the effort to remove such activity from the purview of law enforcement, I fear the results of poorly thought through action in this arena. Having some set of material that is legal for minors to possess but not adults leads to all sorts of problems. What happens, for instance, when the minor is no longer a minor? What happens when the school dimwit who is just about to turn 21 receives the pictures? Or when they are posted online? The current laws may not have good answers to these questions but at least the answers are clear. I can see potential changes that would have just as bad answers yet lack the clarity of current law.

It would be far better, IMO, to recognize that for some age limit (thirteen plus, fourteen plus?) our current legal regime just does not reflect reality. Especially as the age of consent is passed our legal framework does not make sense. Is there any other activity that is legal for both of the participants to engage in but is not legal for those same participants to memorialize with pictures?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 21, 2010 1:36:20 PM

@Randy- Whatever happened to 'Kids will be Kids'.. well, school shootings for one. When you have an early teen who is willing to mow down his classmates because they made fun of him or her, then the 'innocence' of teenagers is seriously in question. I , for one, think it is ALL blown out of proportion.. but if a 14 year old can make an adult decision to kill, then that must mean all 14 year old are capable of the same actions. That is the same kind of Hooey that they are trying to ram down every sex-offender's throat.. Hey, if one is capable of the most heinous act, are they not ALL capable, and thus ALL equally dangerous? "
We better keep tabs on all of them, then." Sounds just as ridiculous, considering one person has free will and control of their actions, not every person who fits the same description as them. The fact is that each individual, of age or otherwise, has free will and the ability to choose between right and wrong. Now, the government lawyers, ex-Bush admin officials, and the "Fear Police" - The Media- are saying anyone who committed a sex crime in the past is incapable of redemption.. regardless of what they actually did. The Chelsea King is a great example of this hysteria.. only one person did that to her, yet the media frenzy fear-storm is going to try to restrict the lives of all for the actiopns of the one/few.

So, I suppose their next logical step will be to say that sexting identifies these "Dangerous kids" before they reach adult age, and because of it we will have to track them for life.

Like I said, I don't agree at all.

Posted by: tbucket | Mar 21, 2010 5:23:35 PM

I agree with SC.

Posted by: mpb | Mar 21, 2010 7:41:08 PM

the kids will do it one way or another it think it should be banded for all teenagers under 18

Posted by: jessica | Mar 31, 2010 5:32:28 PM

PENN & TELLER BULLSHIT episode this week July 2nd 2010 on "Teen Sex" hit the nail on the head. Adults will never be able to regulate teen sex no matter how hard they try. It is human nature to explore sex and it begins in the teens years. Give kids a break leave them the heck alone and quit hanging over their shoulders creating these insane laws.

Sincerely, A Mom

Posted by: Ruth | Jul 2, 2010 2:15:55 PM

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