Florida makes a real mess of law on sexting

The Florida legislature passed a law on sexting that is unenforceable

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Seeing a rise in sexting by minors, Florida passed a law in 2011 that made it illegal for minors in the state to sext each other, that is to send images of nudity – whether their own or someone else’s – to others via cell phone.

The first offense is a civil infraction, resulting in community service or a fine, Slate reported. But further offenses are criminal under Florida’s law. The second and third would count as misdemeanours, while the fourth offense would be a felony.

But the way the law is written makes it impossible to punish minors for sexting.

The legal gaffe is caused by existing Florida law that prevents any court in the state from having jurisdiction over civil infractions by minors. Therefore, no Florida court can hear a case on minors sexting.

Since the first offense in a civil penalty and no court can prosecute a minor for a civil infraction, there can be no conviction. And with no conviction on the first offense, there can be no second, third or fourth offense, meaning it’s impossible for Florida to punish any sexting minors.

Problems with the sexting statute came to light in a case over a minor who texted a classmate a photo of her vagina because she was “bored”. Prosecutors had the case against her thrown out and an appeals court upheld that decision.

Florida lawmakers could fix this blunder by rewriting the statute, but they have not done so at this point, presumably because they are hesitant to make sexting a criminal infraction for the first offense.


Follow Payton Guion on Twitter @PaytonGuion.