Texas lawmakers hope to crack down on teens sending sexually explicit text messages by making the penalties less severe. Currently, the crime is often not prosecuted due to the face that penalties can be too severe.
The lack of prosecution is because if a teenager takes a sexually explicit picture of himself or herself, technically it is classified as child pornography. If the image is sent, the crime is classified as distribution of child pornography and whoever receives the image would be in possession of child pornography, which is a federal felony. Anyone convicted of possessing child pornography faces a prison sentence and will be required to register as a sex offender.
Texas Senate Bill 407 would downgrade the ‘sexting’ offense to a Class C misdemeanor if it is a first-time offense and if all violators are under the age of 18. First-time violators and their parents would have to undergo an educational program about the long-term harm teen ‘sexting’ can do.
A 2008 report from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy showed that 22 percent of teen girls had sent or posted online nude or semi-nude images of themselves.
Some Texas residents say the current law is too harsh.
Texas is not the first state to tackle the emerging issue of teen ‘sexting.’ Other states like Vermont have enacted similar laws. If Senate Bill 407 passes, it would go into effect in September 2011. The bill already has bipartisan support in the state capitol.
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