TEXAS PASSES NEW TEEN SEXTING LAWS
Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a legislative bill, which became law on September 1, 2011 decreasing the penalty for teenagers, who are caught ‘sexting’ with each other, to a misdemeanor. Prior to the passage of the new sexting laws, juveniles caught sexting could face felony charges and wind up as a registered sex offender. Under the new law, a sexting offense is a Class C misdemeanor for first-time violators less than 18 years old. Judges are now authorized to sentence minors convicted of sexting – and one of the minor’s parents – to participate in an education program about sexting’s long-term harmful consequences. The new law also allows teens to apply to the court to have the sexting offense expunged from their records.
What exactly is sexting? Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages and/or photographs, usually via cell phones or computers.
One in five teens have admitted to sexting, according to a survey conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. A greater number said they had received sexually explicit photos of other teens, which were meant to be private, highlighting the risk of sexting. Most teens intend for the message and/or photo they send to be private. However, when message and/or photo goes viral – it cannot be retracted.
“Studies show that teenage students are increasingly creating, sending and receiving explicit pictures of themselves on their mobile telephones,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said. “This practice is not just harmful to the young Texans who appear in compromising photographs – it poses significant legal risks. Thanks to Sen. Kirk Watson’s legislation, Texas has a common-sense law that holds wrongdoers accountable – but does not impose life-altering consequences on young offenders.”
Offenders could face arrest, jail time of up to one year, fines up to $4,000.00, court costs, attorneys fees, community service up to 200 hours, mandatory attendance at a sexting educational program, confiscation of cell phone or other electronic device by law enforcement, and a criminal record – not to mention the public humiliation from all of the above.
 Senate Bill 407 was originally drafted by Senator Kirk Watson and sponsored by House Representative Tom Craddick.