Whitesburg KY

‘Sexting’ bill a good step

Technology can advance so fast that the law can’t keep up. If you doubt that, just look at the increasing practice of “sexting” by teenagers.

Combining teenage sexuality with the increasingly easy practice of snapping digital pictures and sending them via mobile phone has created cases not imagined when the family camera used a roll of film developed at the corner pharmacy.

Teens who take nude pictures of themselves or their peers and send them by cell phone — as a joke, as a way of flirting, for revenge — perhaps don’t recognize they are flirting only with being convicted of felony sex crimes and being labeled as a sex off ender for decades.

“Sexting” is a case of hormones getting ahead of common sense and modesty, but such youthful indiscretions shouldn’t leave teens branded as sex off enders required to register with the statewide sex off ender registry.

House Bill 143 recognizes that these teenagers often put little thought into clicking the camera’s shutter or pushing the send button, let alone baring their bodies while someone else takes the picture. Lawmakers should support the measure that provides leniency for first-time teenage off enders found guilty of sending such sexually explicit photos of other minors by phone. Instead of felony charges, a first strike would bring community service and hopefully enough good sense so that teens don’t find themselves facing a second strike. …

The passage of House Bill 143 would be a recognition that the increased penalties and restrictions that have been added to sex crimes over the past decade can miss the mark. Sex off enders convicted of off enses that don’t involve children are still bound by residency restrictions that keep them from living close to where children congregate. Sex crimes and their penalties should be more narrowly tailored to off er punishment, prevention and public safety without indiscriminately attaching the stigma of the sex off ender label.

The adoption of House Bill 143 is a step in that direction. The bill recognizes that teens can learn the lessons from their foolishness without suff ering the full consequences that come with breaking these laws.

— Owensboro (Ky.) Messenger-Inquirer

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