It is about time Florida politicians take up one of the most pressing issues of our time: horny teenagers sending naked pictures of themselves to each other on their cell phones. Technically, if a minor gets caught "sexting" they could be charged with child pornography charges and forced to register as a sex offender. The new bill, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Dean (R-Iverness) would make the first sexting offense by a minor a non-criminal threat. It would give schools and police a much better tool to curb sexting without having to possibly make the captain of the cheer leading squad register as a sex offender for sending her "n00dz" to the president of the AV Club (which happens all the time, obviously).
Still not sure what sexting is? Well, thankfully it's defined in the bill's analysis:
"Sexting" is a recently coined term that combines the words "sex" and "texting."6 It is used to describe the act of sending sexually explicit messages, photographs, or videos of oneself or another person by electronic means. As the name suggests, "sext" messages are most commonly sent by a cell phone text message. Media reports and other studies indicate that sexting is a growing trend among teenagers. In a 2008 survey of 1,280 teenagers and young adults of both sexes, 20 percent of teens (ages 13-19) and 33 percent of young adults (ages 20-26) had sent nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves electronically. Additionally, 39 percent of teens and 59 percent of young adults had sent sexually explicit text messages.
Well of course you know what nudity is. Wait, you don't? Luckily that is defined in already existing Florida law:
[T]he showing of the human male or female genitals, pubic area, or buttocks with less than a fully opaque covering; or the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any portion thereof below the top of the nipple; or the depiction of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state. A mother‟s breastfeeding of her baby does not under any circumstance constitute "nudity," irrespective of whether or not the nipple is covered during or incidental to feeding.
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So, yes, technically Florida teens could get punished with big felonies for sexting (even if, say, a boy snaps a pic of himself "discernibly turgid" in basketball shorts during Science class), but Dean's bill makes the first offense a non-criminal offense. Teens would have to complete eight hours of community service and/or pay a $60 fine.
Though, on the second offense teens could face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. On the fourth offense teens would be charged with a felony, which could carry as much as five years in jail, but would likely only result in probation.
Naked Politics reports that the bill passed through the Criminal Justice committee with a unanimous vote and little discussion on Monday.