YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Juveniles caught sending sexually explicit photographs via their cell phones would not face criminal prosecution but, rather, receive intense education, if the state Senate approves a new “sexting” law.
NEWSBREAK: The Senate on Wednesday, June 29, approved the ‘sexting’ bill, with passed minor amendments, by a 39-0 vote. The Assembly concurred with the amendments, 78-0. It now heads to the Governor’s desk.
Sponsored by a trio of Assemblywomen, including Bergen County’s Valerie Vainieri Huttle, the proposal clarifies child pornography laws that in several states have led to criminal charges against youngsters.
“This has become a growing problem because technology has changed so rapidly, making it hard for parents to keep up and for teens to understand the ramifications of this behavior,” Vainieri Huttle said. “This bill creates a nuanced approach to the issue, one that recognizes that kids will do foolish things, while also creating a serious mechanism to address the problem.”
According to a 2008 survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, roughly one-in-five teens – including 11 percent of girls aged 13 to 16 – have sent a nude or semi-nude picture or video of themselves to friends or posted one on a Web site.
The measure would create an educational program as an alternative to prosecution for juveniles who otherwise could be charged with a criminal offense for posting or sending sexually suggestive or sexually explicit photographs.
Participants would learn about the potential state and federal legal consequences and penalties for sexting as well as its personal costs – including the effect on relationships, its impact on school life and the loss of future employment opportunities. County prosecutors would determine who could be admitted. Those juveniles who successfully complete the program would avoid charges.
“Teens need to understand the ramifications of their actions, but they shouldn’t necessarily be treated as criminals,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden), a co-sponsor of the bill. “We need to create a path that places education and forgiveness before arrest and prosecution. Young people – especially teen girls – need to understand that sending inappropriate pictures is not only potentially illegal, but can leave an indelible mark on them socially and educationally.”
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