If a new Florida Senate bill becomes law, the Sunshine State will finally have a legal definition of "sexting" - sending sexual advances or photos via text message. That may sound like a silly thing for the state legislature to be working on during a period of such economic uncertainty and nasty partisanship -- and it is -- but the law would essentially decriminalize the act when done by minors. It's an important issue to people like Phillip Alpert, the Orlando teen charged with multiple felonies (he is now a registered sex offender) after sending a photo of his girlfriend to dozens of her friends and family during an argument.
But the bill also serves another purpose. In a state filled with not-so-tech-savvy retirees, the new law -- sponsored by Sen. Charlie Dean (R-Iverness) -- creates an official definition of sexting, so everyone can understand exactly what all the whipper-snappers are up to these days.
The bill analysis explains it like this:
"Sexting" is a recently coined term that combines the words "sex" and "texting." 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.
Confused about what exactly nudity is? Well Florida law already has a definition of that:
[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.
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.
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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 earlier this week.
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