Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sexting Laws in 50 States

As readers may remember back on June 3, 2016 I posted an action item to amend Virginia’s Child Pornography statutes so teens who consensually ‘Sext” do NOT get charged with Producing, Possessing, Solicitation or Distributing Child Pornography by overzealous Commonwealth's Attorneys. 

There is some interest amongst Virginia Legislators to work on such a proposal in 2017 or 2018 but their hesitation at the moment is stronger than their interest. 

As with most proposals I’ve made over the years one of the first questions I’m asked by Legislators is...What are they doing in the other states? 

Well some States have made ‘Sexting’ a misdemeanor instead of a felony and that’s NOT a better solution. If there is no force, threat, intimidation, extortion or mass emailing/posting online of the images then I don’t believe any criminal charges should be filed. That’s why I believe an age-gap allowance like in Virginia’s Carnal Knowledge statute will make sure only age-appropriate relationships are excluded from prosecution for consensual Sexting. But I also don’t think 18, 19 and 20 year old in age-appropriate relationships should face criminal charges either and we need to include them in any Virginia Bill/proposal and that seems to be a sticking point for many Virginia Legislators. They usually don't want to see a 16 year old convicted who is in a relationship with a 14 or 13 year old ...............but they completely hesitate to protect any 18 or 19 year old who is in a relationship with a 16 or 17 year old, and they shouldn’t! 

I know when I was 16 and 17 years old I was dating 18, 19, and 20 year olds there isn’t anything wrong with that and those who attempt to spin similar relationships into a perverse acts need to look within and determine why do they view a 16 and a 19 year old or a 17 and a 20 year old dating, as predatory.

Age-gap proposals have been made by experts in the juvenile field. Some suggest a 3-year and some suggest a 4-year age gap being added to State Child Pornography statutes and none of them suggest we stop at the age of 17 (juveniles) to criminalize the 18, 19 or 20 year olds. 

Here are a few recent books on the topic:
·         Sexting and Young People by Thomas Crofts , M. Lee , A. McGovern and S. Milivojevic
·         Adolescent Sexual Behavior in the Digital Age: Considerations for Clinicians, Legal Professionals and Educators by Fabian Saleh, Albert Grudzinskas and Abigail Judge
·         Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent (Feminist Media Studies) by Amy Adele Hasinoff
·         Sexting and Cyberbullying: Defining the Line for Digitally Empowered Kids by Shaneen Shariff
·         Refining Child Pornography Law: Crime, Language, and Social Consequences (Law, Meaning, and Violence) by Carissa Byrne Hessick 

So…..what do the other 49 States do when it comes to consensual teen Sexting?  

A Virginia Legislator did ask me this recently so as I’ve done with many other issues..... I went looking for the requested data….and I quickly found, no one had a complete or current list/chart for all 50 States. So as I have done many times before I decided to compile the data that's out there into one chart. The most important information I was looking for ‘age-gaps’ turned out to be non-existent. I don’t know if this means States are NOT using age-gaps OR if the data I was able to locate just doesn’t mention them.
Below is a 50 State Teen Sexting Chart, divided into 4 parts to fit on this blog. I am not claiming it’s perfect and I know it’s not complete. If anyone sees an error or has any updates for their State, please email me