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May 27, 2010

Ohio legislature developing special teen "sexting" criminal law

My local Columbus Dispatch reports here on an interesting state legislative effort to create a special criminal law to deal with the special problem of teen sexting.  This article is headlined "Ohio House backs making teen 'sexting' crime: Bill rules out harsh penalties because it’s only for minors," and here are the interesting details:

Ohio House yesterday passed a bill that would punish teenagers for "sexting" but ensure that they do not face harsh punishment or be put on the sex-offender registry normally associated with transmitting nude pictures of minors.

"This is a growing problem that must be addressed in the most responsible and effective way," said sponsor Connie Pillich, D-Montgomery, who introduced the bill about a year after a House Republican pushed a similar measure. "Is this behavior bad? Yes. Does it warrant a life sentence as a sex offender? No."

As technology has made it increasingly easy to take pictures and transmit them, studies say a growing number of teenagers are sending nude pictures of themselves or others in what is commonly known as sexting.

But the problem for law-enforcement officers and prosecutors is how to treat these situations under existing law, which is designed to harshly punish those who transmit such pictures and was largely written long before sexting was even possible.

Pillich noted cases in Pennsylvania and Ohio in which teenage girls faced serious child-pornography charges for sending nude photos of themselves. "One of the central tenets of our juvenile-justice system is that children are to be treated differently than adults," Pillich said.

House Bill 473 creates the new offense of sexting and applies it only to minors, classifying the sending of a nude photo of oneself as an unruly act and the sending of a photo of another as a misdemeanor.

The bill passed 86-12. Some members were concerned that the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association opposed the measure. Prosecutors argued that some offenses with potentially devastating consequences are being improperly reduced, sending the wrong message about the seriousness of the offenses.

"This is a serious matter, and I think if we're really concerned about the safety of these young people and properly handling this serious offense, we should listen to what prosecutors say ... and take it back and redo it again," said Rep. Danny Bubp, R-West Union.

Some related "sexting" posts:

May 27, 2010 at 08:59 AM | Permalink


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The desire to outlaw sexting makes me very uncomfortable. It seems strange that a free society would outlaw the making of an image of oneself. I understand that we lot grownups do lots of things that we don't let children do, but preventing them from depicting themselves – an act so central to ones existence – feels wrong.

It also exposes some of the false assumptions of Feber case. Sometimes kids aren't the victims of such images. Sometimes they're the makers, possessers, and traffickers of such images.

Posted by: dm | May 27, 2010 9:09:16 AM

"Is this behavior bad? Yes. Does it warrant a life sentence as a sex offender? No."

There is a knee-jerk reaction that every "bad behavior" must be a criminal law matter, and nobody seems to be asking the real question: should this "bad behavior" be criminalized?

And phrases like "safety of these young people" and "serious offense" do not withstand scrutiny. I have faith in a majority democracy. But this is proof positive that elected representatives leave common sense at the door in favor of sound bites.

Posted by: DEJ | May 27, 2010 1:23:57 PM

OMG, I agree with both comments. "This is a growing problem that must be addressed" ... Seriously?

With DEMS like Connie, who needs tea baggers? Connie the Dem thinks we should thank her for being so reasonable as to choose not to assign permanent "Sex Offender" status to sexting kids. Thanks for that - How bloody enlightened of her.

Posted by: brian williams | May 27, 2010 1:39:49 PM

Again, this is the responsibility of the child's parent(s). When was it that parents stopped parenting, and government and schools took over that responsibility? WTF is wrong with people anymore? IMHO, a child, who under the age of 18 has a phone, should know that their phone is a privilege, and that phone does not belong to them. I would have no problem with browsing through my son's phone [if he had one]. What kind of parent would I be if I let my son run willy-nilly? The adults in society need to grow up and get a backbone!

Posted by: Huh? | May 27, 2010 3:54:39 PM

I think the above comments make sense with respect to a kid sending a picture of him or herself. After all, it makes little sense to allow a person to show his/her naked body to a significant other, but not to send a picture of it to the same person (punishable with jail and the list, unless you have a rich father).

Here's where the problem comes in, however--what happens if a minor sends the picture to a non-minor (or worse, a kiddie porn site)? That's blatant trafficking in child pornography--a felony under state and federal law--yet now it can only be punished as a misdemeanor. Presuming you think adults sending kiddie porn to each other should be criminalized, why shouldn't minors be treated the same if it's not their own picture?

Posted by: Res ipsa | May 27, 2010 5:52:51 PM

ahh very nice!

"House Bill 473 creates the new offense of sexting and applies it only to minors, classifying the sending of a nude photo of oneself as an unruly act and the sending of a photo of another as a misdemeanor."

But not worth a darn since some retard nazi politican can change the law next week AFER you have plead out to this minor charge and guess what NOW BASED ON IT YOU REGISTERED FOR LIFE!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 27, 2010 7:08:16 PM

Sexting is an impossible crime.

If I murder myself, in all states, now, that is not a crime. If I do not injure the economic interest nor the safety of anyone else, I can burn down my own house. During the first two trimesters, the fetus is a piece of tissue dependent on the mother's body. Abortion, a tearing away of this dependent tissue, during that time is not a crime. That is settled in US case law. If I want to inject into myself a legal but harmful substance as a medical experiment, no one may interfere with that act. I punch myself hard because I made a mistake in a tennis match, no one may arrest me for battery.

A girl takes a pic of herself in her underwear, how can that be a crime?

Oh, I know. The vile feminist and its male running dogs wants to maintain an appearance of virtue. They are saying, with these false prosecutions, we are not after the productive male. We will prosecute even the girls themselves. Here is the remedy. The families of these girls do not sue the school.
The town totally shuns this feminist vermin, until they are driven out of town by boycotts by all service and product providers. No one sells them food, shut off their utilities. Expel them from church and all other organizations. When passing them on the street, yell, "Feminist vermin." At that moment, the crowd should pelt them with rotten food. Feminism is hate speech, and the feminist a hate group member. As the Klan, a lawyer run fraternal organization, had the government in its pocket, and lynched 5000 people with absolute lawyer self-dealt immunity, so the feminist vermin has it now. Because these are dehumanizing, hate groups, violent self help has full moral and intellectual justification. It is almost a duty for all caring people.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 27, 2010 10:21:50 PM

What should be done to people who download these teen pictures? If teens freely placed pictures on the web (no crime or cohersion)and they are not punished then, those who find them on the web, and download them, should also have more lenient laws and consequences. Child porn is rampant on the web. Many teens are placing many images. With high speed internet and a click of a mouses, thousands of pictures can be downloaded. Technology has changed.Laws should keep up with the technology downloading thousands of pictures in 30 seonds is not uncommon for high speed. Perhaps courts need to treat those who view these pictures more lenient too. If a 10-17 year olds knowingly places nude pictures on the web and send them to friends,who send them or post on the web, and others find them along the way, they should not be prosecuted as harshly as they are now, too.If one is going to prosecute those who downloaded them, then, those who placed them and distributed, should be punished by the law too.

Posted by: Ann | May 28, 2010 12:07:50 AM

You all realize that this bill targets teenagers and younger? Sexting is already a crime for teenagers, but it is punishable with a FELONY conviction and permantent registration as a sex offender. That seems a bit harsh for a 15 year old. This bill makes it a misdemeanor. It is a dangerous behavior that has led to suicide and sexual assault, so some sort of deterrent is necessary. As for "leaving it to parents," children with good parenting will never have an issue with sexting.

A person tries to help protect children and he or she is labeled as a terrible person. How is that right?

Posted by: Joe | May 28, 2010 12:21:54 PM

Joe: I would like to hear about any case where sexting caused a suicide. Sexual assault is already against the law. Sexual images tend to reduce sex crimes in an area that decreases restrictions on such. I am not questioning your remarks. I would just like to learn more about them with some references. You do not sound like a lawyer, so we have no dispute. I respect your opinions.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 29, 2010 12:40:21 PM

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