Correction: This bill must still pass the NJ State Senate, before moving to the Governor’s desk. The bill passed the Assembly unanimously, 78-0.
The sexting reform bill, which seeks to divert juveniles caught sending explicit photographs out of the courtroom passed the New Jersey Assembly yesterday and now awaits Governor Cristie’s signature. We first told you about the proposed legislation in January and when the Assembly voted yesterday, it was unanimous.
Under current law if you are caught disseminating sexually explicit photos on a phone featuring a minor, you can be charged with a child pornography crime. For teens and young adults, this means a lifelong designation as a sex offender, a simply inappropriate designation.
Sure, kids shouldn’t be texting each other inappropriate images. But they do. And the new law seeks to change how those teens are treated.
If Governor Christie signs the bill, minors caught with these sort of photos would be diverted into an educational program. The program would make it abundantly clear that there are both legal and personal risks involved in transmitting these sort of images.
According to the blog OhMyGov.com, opponents believe the legislation is an extension of the “nanny state”, where the government takes a leading role in determining what’s best for us and our children. But the unanimous vote at the New Jersey assembly suggests those opponents aren’t elected officials of the state.
As the bill points out, sexting can have lasting impacts because of the risk of the photos ending up in the wrong hands, phone, or even computer. The Assemblywoman who introduced the bill states “Young people, especially teen girls, need to understand that sending inappropriate picture is not only potentially illegal, but can leave an indelible mark on them socially and educationally.”
Rather than prosecuting teens for a sex offense, the new bill would remove this excessive penalty and attempt to prevent future sexting instead.
Though the overwhelming support of the bill among lawmakers is apparent, Christie has yet to comment on the law, making it unclear when and if he’ll sign it.