Sexting: Education and Prevention

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.

What is sexting?
The definition of sexting includes:
A minor who knowingly uses a computer or any other device capable of electronic data transmission or distribution to transmit or distribute to another minor any photograph or video of any person which depicts nudity, and is harmful to minors.
A minor who possesses a photograph or video of any person that was transmitted or distributed by another minor which depicts nudity and is harmful to minors.
The sexting statute is not violated if:
The minor did not solicit the photograph or video
The minor took reasonable steps to report the photograph or video to the minor’s legal guardian or to a school or law enforcement official
The minor did not transmit or distribute the photograph or video to a third party.
What level of offense is sexting?
A first time violation is a noncriminal violation – this is when the citation is issued.
A Second offense is a misdemeanor of the first degree.
A third or subsequent violation is a felony of the third degree.

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