Ohio lawmaker wants to make sexting a misdemeanor
Last week, the Columbus Dispatch reported that Ohio State Representative Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) plans to introduce a bill in the Ohio state legislature which would make the creation, exchange, and possession of nude materials between minors a First-Degree Misdemeanor.
Local prosecutors have brought to my attention that under current Ohio law these teens could be charged with a felony and classified as sex offenders …There is concern that this may not be appropriate for these minors.
Under Ohio law, the punishment for a First Degree Misdemeanor is either no more than a six month prison sentence, or a fine of no more than $1,000. (R.C 2929.28)
While Maag’s heart is in the right place—his proposed bill will prevent fifteen-year-olds from being registered sex offenders well into their 30s, and maintain a legal regime where prosecutors only apply felony possession/distribution of child pornography laws to those laws’ intended population of actual child-pornographers—he ultimately misses the point.
Like those minors charged with felonies, teenagers charged under Maag’s proposed law would still be compelled to navigate the criminal justice system as a consequence of their expression. It is doubtful whether this experience will lead to the intended result of curtailing the practice of sexting.
Mass Sexting or Mass Hysteria?
In another instance of sexting meets the criminal justice system, three Massachusetts teenagers are under investigation by the Holbrook, Massachusetts police department for allegedly creating and distributing a video that, according to news reports, features two of the kids “having sexual intercourse while the third recorded it.”
The video was shared amongst students attending Holbrook Junior-Senior High School.
One of the two people featured in the video, a girl under the age of 16, claims that
she did not realize she was being captured on cell phone.
She went to police with her parents when she realized the video was circulating.
The district attorney is now grappling with what charges to bring against these minors.
The police are encouraging
students who have received the video on their phones to bring it to police so it can be disposed of properly.
The Holbrook police are also planning to speak at school assemblies addressing the practice of sexting.
The police department’s impulse to apply criminal and legal consequences is less appropriate than their plan to educate youth about the sexting issue. Teenagers are best served by an educational program which gives them the information necessary to recognize the social consequences of sexting.
A Fourteen-year-old is Arrested for Posting Nude Photos of Self on MySpace
The fourteen-year-old was arrested after a state task force, relying on a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, alerted the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office, upon investigation into the matter, found that the fourteen-year-old had posted nearly 30 nude photos of herself. A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office reported that the photos were “very explicit.”
The fourteen-year-old, who posted the photos for her boyfriend to see, faces charges of possession/distribution of child pornography. If she is convicted, she would be required to register as a sex offender under New Jersey’s Megan’s Law.
In an interesting twist, New Jersey resident Maureen Kanka, the mother of Megan Kanka for whom Megan’s Law was named following the 7-year-old’s rape and murder by a convicted sex offender, has spoken out against the charges brought in this case. Kanka believes that the fourteen-year-old’s actions:
shouldn’t fall under Megan’s Law in any way, shape or form. She should have an intervention and counseling, because the only person she exploited was herself.
Intervention, counseling, along with education are the ways to address the practice of teens sharing nude photos of themselves via interactive technology. Not criminalization.