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Florida eases penalties for teen 'sexting'

September 30, 2011 |  3:13 pm

Cell phones 
In Florida it's illegal for teenagers to send sexually explicit photos, but teens can now avoid severe penalties for "sexting" under a new state law that takes effect Saturday. 

The law, passed in June, bans sexting among teens, but relaxes penalties for first-time offenders.

Under an earlier law, a minor who sent or received an explicit photo could have been charged with a felony and be forced to register as a sex offender, said Democratic state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, who wrote the bill.

Under the new law, a first offense is non-criminal and is punishable by up to eight hours of community service or a $60 fine.

The second offense is a misdemeanor and the third becomes a felony, carrying a maximum five-year prison sentence. Teens who receive sexually explicit photos cannot be prosecuted.

“When the child pornography laws were written they didn’t take into account the advances in technology, such as cell phone and computers,” Abrazzo said. “The punishment did not fit the crime.”

The law allows for teenagers to make a mistake, but then learn the consequences of their actions, Abrazzo said. “At the end of the day, we’re not going to ruin your life and label you a sex offender,” he said. “It gives parents and the school the opportunity to let them know that this could become serious if you continue.”


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File photo: Reuters