In response to the popularity of cell phones and other communication devices with Florida’s teens, and their fondness for sexting, a law was introduced in October 2011 to make sexting a crime.
Sexting is the sending, or receiving, by computer, phone or other equipment capable of electronic communication, nude images that may be harmful to minors. Although the legislation is relatively new and addresses what has been perceived as a growing phenomenon, some see it as a relaxation of the laws that previously covered such incidents.
Prior to the introduction of the teen sexting law, a person who committed a crime of sending lewd or lascivious images faced jail time and registration as a sex offender. These sanctions still exist if the person sending or distributing the image is 18 or over or the images contain sexual content more extreme in nature than mere nudity.
Under the new law:
- A first offense is treated as a non-criminal violation
- A second offense is treated as a misdemeanor
- A third offense is treated as a felony
Multiple messages sent in a 24-hour period are treated as one offense. A first offense is punishable by eight hours of community service or a $60 fine. A teen found guilty of a first offense can also be sent for re-education courses relating to their actions. Second and third offenses can carry far more severe consequences.
Receiving is an offense, too
At first glance, it appears inherently unfair that simply possessing an inappropriate sext that has been sent to you unsolicited is treated as an offense. However, when you consider the viral effect of electronic communications, it makes sense that the legislation aims to halt possession of and further sending of offensive material by making it unlawful.
Minors who receive a sext will not be considered guilty of an offense if they can demonstrate that they did not request the material, reported it as soon as possible to a parent, guardian or school official and did not send the material to anyone else.
What can start as harmless fun can easily get out of hand and become a crime, the consequences of which can have serious impacts on a teenager’s future.
If your child has been sent offensive material and you want to know how to protect them from such content and potential criminal prosecution, contact a law firm experienced in criminal defense and, particularly, sex crimes. The Byrd Law Firm in Sarasota Florida has successfully advised many families about how to deal with the sexting law.