Felony charge for sexting unfair to teens


Editorial Board

As Kentucky law stands now, there’s no reasonable way to penalize those under 18 years of age who are caught sexting. 

“If a juvenile transmits a nude image of (him or her)self via a cell phone or a computer, that by law is a crime, but it’s only punishable by being convicted of a felony – and that’s very severe,” said Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, the bill’s sponsor. “No judge is going to slap a felony offense on a juvenile.”

Sharing nude pictures without the consent of the sender should be punished. However, the consensual, two-way sending of nude pictures should not result in jail time. 

Lust, love and promiscuity are natural, and as much as older generations may hate to admit it, the age of technology has translated these feelings into nude and crude text messages. Romeo had his balcony, but today’s teenagers have their iPhones. 

Bowen said research officers in a local high school brought the concerns about sexting punishments to him. Since the bill’s proposal, Bowen said teachers from a local middle school in Owensboro took their class on a field trip to watch the bill be presented because the issue has impacted their classrooms.

There are dangers to sexting, including the greater potential for child pornography cases.

Sexting is not without risk, and teenagers should be informed of the ramifications of sexting. 

They might not think about the possible shame if someone were to share their pictures or text messages, or about future employers finding out way more than they bargained for in a Google search. 

But turning that juvenile action into a felony means that a courtroom decision can ruin a life, and it impacts  a teen’s future beyond their control. Judges would rather not hit a minor with a felony, so they often do nothing. 

No in-between exists for sexting cases, but SB 37 would help fix the problem.

This change makes the punishment for sexting enforceable without ruining lives. Having a felony means that you can’t vote, impacts what jobs you get, and influences how you are perceived in society. 

Lessening the penalties would not make it so that more people will get away with sexting — it would make the punishment fit the crime. 

Bowen said the bill’s language is specific on the definition of sexting, and judges have a broad discretion to protect the innocent. 

Teenagers won’t get to walk out of a courtroom without learning why their actions are wrong. 

“There is truly the potential to be charged with a misdemeanor,” Bowen said. 

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