Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Effort to decriminalize sexting as a first offense advances

TALLAHASSEE — Should children who snap racy photos on their cell phones and send them out to their friends be punished as child-pornography distributors or sex offenders?

No, a Florida Senate panel said Monday. At least, not the first time they get caught.

For the second consecutive year, the state Legislature has taken on "sexting," the practice of sending sexually explicit text messages, photos or videos, usually via cell phone.

A bill that has cleared two committees in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives would decriminalize sexting as a first offense for children who are under age. A similar measure passed unanimously in that chamber last year, but stalled in the House.

"It's an issue we need to address with our young people and our parents and our schools," Sen. Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican and the bill's sponsor, said earlier this month. "These kind of issues get out of hand, so we might as well nip it in the bud and stop it."

The proposed legislation centers on provocative photos and videos owned and disseminated not only via cell phones but also through any "electronic data transmission," which would include computers.

The first sexting violation for a minor would be punishable by a $60 fine or eight hours of community service, with escalating charges and penalties for each additional offense. Children could still be prosecuted for other offenses that could be linked to sexting, such as stalking. And the more forgiving rules would not apply to adults.

State laws across the country have struggled to catch up with technology as more and more children own or have access to gadgets such as cell phones that let them disseminate images or videos of themselves nude or partially nude. Children sometimes use the compromising photos and video to bully their peers.

In Florida, past underage "sexters" have been charged as felons — on the same level as distributors of child pornography, for example — and forced to register as sex offenders and comply with residency restriction limitations. In 2007, an Orlando 18-year-old was sentenced to five years of probation and forced to register as a sex offender after e-mailing a nude photo of his 16-year-old girlfriend to her friends and family after the couple argued.

SB 888 — with HB 75, sponsored by state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellingon — would downgrade the level of the crime, a move state public defenders support. The approach acknowledges that teenagers who make a poor judgment call should not be treated as serious criminals.

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

Effort to decriminalize sexting as a first offense advances 03/28/11 [Last modified: Monday, March 28, 2011 7:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Meet 'rave pops,' the EDM-loving, hard-dancing 72-year-old who went viral via the Sunset Music Festival (w/video)

    Music & Concerts

    Alan Grofé is a 72-year-old, semi-retired entrepreneur and former tech executive with frost-white hair, two grown children and five grandchildren.

    Alan Grofe dances at the Electric Daisy Carnival festival in Orlando in 2016. [aLIVE Coverage for Insomniac]
  2. Humana adding 200 telemarketing jobs in Tampa Bay

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Health insurance company Humana Inc. is hiring more than 200 workers in Tampa Bay. The Louisville, Ky.-based company said Wednesday that the new positions will focus on phone sales for Humana's direct marketing services department.

    Humana is adding 200 positions to its Tampa office. Theo Sai, chief medical officer for seniro products at Humana, is pictured in the company's Tampa executive office in 2015. | Rachel Crosby, Times
  3. Congressman wants Trump to pay for Mar-a-Lago travel

    Blogs

    WASHINGTON -- This bill won’t go anywhere, but give Rep. Alcee Hastings creative points with the TRUMPED Act, aka Taxpayers Require Urgent Mandatory Protection from Egregious Debt Act of 2017:

  4. U.S. President Donald Trump and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel walk together during arrival at Melsbroek Military Airport in Melsbroek, Belgium on Wednesday. US President Donald Trump is in Belgium to attend a NATO summit and to meet EU and Belgian officials. [AP photo]
  5. If Tony Dungy sticks around, he'll broadcast the 2021 Tampa Super Bowl for NBC

    Bucs

    Lost in the Super Tuesday news of the Super Bowl coming back to Tampa was this nugget:

    Pictured, from left, Dan Patrick, co-Host, Tony Dungy, studio analyst, Aaron Rodgers. [Ben Cohen/NBC]