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Legislation on teen sexting advances in New Jersey Senate

Under current New Jersey law, teenagers who engage in sexting -- the sending of sexually explicit photos of themselves or their friends -- can be charged with transmitting child pornography. But legislation to change the law is moving through the state legislature.

Under the proposal approved by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, a minor who transmits an explicit photograph would be educated about the negative ramifications of sexting rather than face criminal prosecution.

Several teens in other states have been arrested and charged with crimes after sexting explicit photos of themselves or acquaintenances.

One of the sponsors of the bill which has already been unanimously approved by the Assembly is Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, who says, "teens need to understand the ramifications of their actions, but they shouldn't necessarily be treated as criminals. We need to create a path that places education and forgiveness before arrest and prosecution. Young people -- especially teen girls -- need to understand that sending inappropriate pictures is not only potentially illegal, but can leave an indelible mark on them socially and educationally."

A 2008 survey indicated that about one in five teenagers have transmitted by cell phone a photo or video of themselves nude or in some state of undress.

The proposed legislation would give prosecutors the option to send minors into an educational program in which they'd learn about the legal consequences of sending sexually explicit photographs. They would also be taught about the negative effects a criminal conviction can have on a person's education opportunities, career prospects and relationships.

Source: "New legislation aims to replace criminal charges with counseling in cases of teen sexting" by Kristina Pritchett: June 13, 2011