Reforms passed to protect teens from ‘sexting’ prosecution

New law protects teenagers from felony prosecution and promotes prevention and intervention

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law the Responsible Teen Communications Act on April 24.

The act protects teenagers from felony prosecution for distribution or possession of child pornography when they make explicit messages and images of themselves and share them with peers. The act also invests in evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies.

“Washington has a responsibility to protect its young people — and that includes protection from the life-long consequences of unnecessary prosecution,” said Michele Storms, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington’s executive director.

“This bill addresses irresponsible teenage behavior in a more productive way.”

A majority of teenagers use cell phones, and according to numerous studies, at least 20 percent of them use their phones to exchange explicit images of themselves, mostly with someone they are dating. This exposes a large number of young people to the threat of criminal prosecution for behaviors that could be effectively addressed in more productive ways, according to an ACLU press release.

Prior to this bill, teenagers who sent or received sexually explicit messages and images could be charged with distribution or possession of child pornography — a felony conviction that would result in a criminal record, sex offender registration and life-long barriers to housing, employment and education.

The Responsible Teen Communications Act replaces those penalties with “an investment in developing evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies that educate tens to make responsible decisions,” according to the press release. It also retains misdemeanor-level criminal penalties for youth who share images of others.

“Young people will make mistakes, but a teen who sends a naked selfie should not suffer the same consequences as a child pornographer,” said Rep. Noel Frame, D-Seattle, the bill’s prime sponsor.

“By bringing state law up to date with technology, we are protecting teens from the unintended consequences of a law meant to keep them from harm, while ensuring that malicious behavior can still be punished appropriately.”

Many stakeholders advocated for the passage of SHB 1742, including the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Team Child, the Washington Defender Association, the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Justice for Girls Coalition.

More in News

Port of Bremerton plans to modernize Airport Diner

Owners Tom and Kathy Dacy have decided to discontinue their business after the remodel

Kingston fast ferry sailings canceled for the rest of Friday and all of Saturday

Backup vessel Melissa Ann has been taken out of service for emergency repairs

Kilmer’s Save Our Sound Act passes House committee

Bill would establish a Puget Sound recovery program office to coordinate restoration efforts

<em>‘Marine Supply’ is now prominently featured on the gable end of Longship Marine’s new building.		 </em>Nick Twietmeyer/Kitsap News Group
The tide rises again for Longship Marine

It’s fair winds and following seas once again for Poulsbo’s Longship Marine… Continue reading

Poulsbo brothers raise money for Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital

There is a lot of news out there about kids and lemonade… Continue reading

Show your Wolves flag!

Flying the SK flag is becoming a community ‘thing’

Photo by Jana Mackin
                                Shawn Danubio, general manager of Whiskey Gulch, stands under a banner that calls social media attention to their movement to stop the city’s possible eminent domain action against the business.
                                Shawn Danubio, general manager of Whiskey Gulch, stands under a banner that calls social media attention to their movement to stop the city’s possible eminent domain action against the business. (Photo by Jana Mackin)
Pedestrian pathway project is hitting a bumpy stretch at Annapolis

Columnist Jana Mackin finds dissatisfaction with city’s process

Kitsap Rescue Mission overnight shelter to close Oct. 13

Shelter’s temporary permit set to expire amid fire safety concerns; staff seeking new location

CHI Franciscan breaks ground on new Bremerton clinic

26,000 square-foot facility will provide comprehensive primary, specialty, and urgent care services

Most Read