Recently, several news outlets covered our agency’s development of a standardized citation for the crime of sexting to be used throughout Charlotte County. This has led to some confusion about the program, as well as current state law. The safety and well-being of the youth in our community is always a top priority – please read about this program and how it will help promote education about the problem to encourage prevention.
When the sexting statute was instituted by the State of Florida (FSS 847.0141), there was no method created to document a first offense at the Clerk of Courts. This left each jurisdiction with implementing their own methods.
Our School Resource Officers attended a Florida Association of School Resource Officers conference and spoke to other agencies about what they were using, to compare ideas and find “best practices.” At our agency sexting incidents were being documented, but because there was no delivery of a first-offense citation, the misdemeanor charge for the second offense would not be applicable. This would lead some cases to be prosecuted as felonies for possessing/transmitting child pornography.
Our juvenile sexting citation comes with three options – pay the fine, attend a class, or perform 8 hours of community service. (The court-ordered class is still in the works for our area, however the ramifications of sexting is currently covered by SRO’s in their general curriculum).
Our ultimate goal will be for offenders to attend the class so they can learn about the future consequences of sending texts that contain graphic images, to ensure they do not re-offend.
Currently, the policy is still being reviewed to ensure no processes were overlooked.