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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sen. Charlie Dean on sexting: "We need to nip it in the bud."



Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, wants to end sexting. (That's sex + texting.)

He is sponsoring a bill that addresses the activity and details how minors should be punished under Florida law. It sailed through the Criminal Justice committee by a vote of 5-0 Monday. It took two minutes for senators to pass the bill unanimously, with no one piping up for public comment or debate.

"It's an issue we need to address with our young people and our parents and our schools," Dean said after the meeting. "These kind of issues get out of hand, so we might as well nip it in the bud and stop it."

A minor commits sexting if he or she sends naked photographs or videos of his or herself via "electronic data transmission," i.e. computer or cell phone.

Dean's bill makes sexting a noncriminal offense for a minor. The first sexting violation would be punishable by eight hours of community service or a $60 fine. Minors convicted as "sexters" would not have to register as sex offenders or comply with residency restriction laws.

The bill analysis cites several cases in which prosecutors applied laws generally reserved for producers and distributors of child pornography to teen-sexters. Dean's bill offers more forgiveness for young people.

"We're not out to make criminals out of children, but there should be an accountability for their behavior," he said, "and their parents should be involved with helping us."

[Last modified: Monday, March 14, 2011 5:52pm]


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