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States consider saner 'sexting' penalties for teens

Glaring hypocrisy in post Weiner-gate era

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Lawmakers in 21 states have considered bills this year that would lessen penalties for teen sexting, in which teenagers send or receive pictures of themselves in various states of undress, according to the Associated Press.

The folly of so-called sexting prosecutions, which invoke child-pornography laws to exact harsh penalties on teens, has been obvious for years. But now that US Representative Anthony Weiner has escaped any criminal charges for sending explicit pictures of himself, the absurdity can no longer be ignored.

“Let's just call this what it is: stupid,” Rhode Island state Representative Peter Martin told the AP. “These are kids we're talking about. I don't think minors should face these severe punishments just for being stupid.”

The list of teens accused of serious crimes for sending or receiving nude pictures on cell phones and computers has been growing. In 2008, a 15-year-old Ohio girl was arrested on felony child-pornography charges for allegedly sending nude cell phone pictures of herself to classmates.

A year later, six Pennsylvania teens faced similar charges for sending and receiving inappropriate pictures on cell phones. Three girls in the latter case, ages 14 and 15 at the time, were accused of taking nude or semi-nude self-portraits of themselves and sending them using their cell phones to three boys, ages 16 and 17.

Instead of charging the minors with sex crimes, many states are considering more sensible punishments, the AP said. California legislators, for instance, have proposed a law that would allow schools to simply expel students caught sexting. Florida lawmakers voted to fine sexters $60 and order community service.

And New York, where Weiner resides, has introduced a bill that would allow judges to send sexters to counseling instead of jail if prosecutors agree no harm was intended. More from the AP here. ®

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