from the breaking-something-that's-fixing-something-that-ain't-broken dept
Sure, some sexting leads to bullying or the uninvited sharing of supposedly "private" photos, but for the most part, it seems to be consensual behavior. The Problem That (Mostly) Isn't is usually tackled by criminalizing the behavior. What law enforcement and legislators fail to understand is that criminalizing normal human behavior just creates more criminals, rather than curbing the undesired behavior.
One "solution" has been to twist sexual offense laws into incredibly abnormal shapes to fit this "crime." If Teen Boy Doe takes a photo of his own genitalia and sends it to a willing recipient, he's just created and distributed child pornography. Anyone who receives it is now in possession of child pornography. Everyone involved now has a chance to kiss their futures goodbye by taking a trip to the sexual offender registry. Turning a child into his or her own pornographer boggles the mind, and yet, some feel this is a perfectly acceptable response.
The other "fix" is legislation. Armed with more good intentions than functioning brain cells (and backed by parents who feel the government is better equipped to raise their children), legislators craft specific laws to criminalize normal human behavior. It's only slightly better than the first option, in that it usually doesn't result in people being accused of producing their own child pornography, directed by and starring themselves. But it still doesn't fix the "problem," and it still results in criminal records for minors who haven't really done anything criminal.
If you're Florida -- the United States' mentally unstable, pill-addled uncle -- you fuck it up completely. (via Reason)
Here’s the sorry story of the state’s latest legal mishap: In 2011, the legislature passed a “sexting” statute barring minors from sending images of nudity (their own or somebody else’s) to other minors. The first offense would qualify as only a civil infraction; minors who violated the law would merely have to perform court-ordered community service or pay a $60 fine. The second and third offenses, however, would qualify as misdemeanors, while the fourth offense would qualify as a felony.While Florida legislators congratulated each other on their savvy solution -- one that would deter sexting without overcriminalizing it -- they failed to notice a glaring loophole in the newly-minted law. This didn't become apparent until the state tried to enforce it by using it against a student who took a vagina selfie (out of "boredom") and sent it to others.
Florida law doesn’t give any court jurisdiction of civil infractions by juveniles—as opposed to criminal infractions—and the sexting statute doesn’t grant any court this kind of jurisdiction. Accordingly, no court in the state currently has legal authority to hear a case involving minors sexting.So, if the first infraction is always a civil matter -- and the courts can't touch a civil case involving a juvenile -- this means no juvenile can ever be prosecuted under Florida's anti-sexting law. It's the law that isn't, which indicates it really shouldn't have been written in the first place.
[B]ecause that first offense is a civil infraction—and because no court can hear civil cases involving minors—it is legally impossible for any minor to be charged with that first offense. As a result, there simply cannot be a second, third, or fourth offense. Sexting between teens—even sexting images of a minor’s nude body—is now functionally legal in Florida.No doubt legislators are now rushing back to their DoSomethingmobiles to "fix" a law that shouldn't have been enacted in the first place. And whatever they slap into place with the glue of good intentions and old-fashioned moral panic will likely be worse than this inadvertent legalization of teen sexting.