Sexting Bill Closer To Law

It cleared a Senate Committee yesterday. The bill creates a misdemeanor crime, applying to those under seventeen who possess or transmit “an indecent visual depiction.”

I don’t know what to think about this one. I like the idea, which is to prevent kids who “sext” from being hit with child pornography charges, as they could under current law. I hope everyone realizes how ridiculous those child porn charges are. They make the kids both the victims of the child porn and the victim of the law. I mean, they sent the pictures of themselves. Any shame that comes from that ought to be penalty enough. We really don’t need to add to the societal shame the legal ruination of their lives. So any attempt to limit that ruin is a good thing.

Unfortunately, they could still face those charges under the new law. The new law doesn’t replace the child porn statutes, it just provides an alternative that its supporters hope prosecutors will use instead of the more serious charges. That seems naive to me. I would much rather we also (or instead) amend the child porn statutes to make clear they do not apply to kids who take and send pictures of themselves.

This is where I should close by saying “oh well, this is better than nothing.” But I’m afraid the new misdemeanor might lead to more prosecutions for consensual sexting. That is, maybe the draconian penalties of the child porn laws have kept some authorities from pursuing charges. But with a lesser penalty, they might be more apt to call in the law. In other words, we might see less nuclear bombs used to kill houseflies, but more machetes.

So like I said, I don’t know.

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