Ricci Levy

Florida's Sexting Bill: A More Measured Approach

Filed By Ricci Levy | May 05, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: cell phone pictures, Charlie Dean, Florida, Joe Abruzzo, sexting

While I don't believe sexting ought to be a crime in all instances, I am pleased to see that Florida is taking a more measured approach than most states. Florida's SB 888 creates the crime of "sexting", the transmission of sexually explicit pictures, often by cell phone. sexting.jpgBut this bill is different from legislation in other states because it imposes a series of rational penalties that increase with each occurrence, beginning with a fine and community service. In other states, penalties include registration on the sex offender registry, ruining young lives over a relatively innocent exchange of personal pictures.

In an unusual bipartisan effort, Senator Charlie Dean and Representative Joe Abruzzo worked together to pass this bill. Senator Dean is a retired Sheriff from Citrus County, Florida and a Republican. During my last trip to Tallahassee, where I was supporting the ACLU of FL by testifying against shackling of incarcerated pregnant women, I took the time to meet with the staff of Representative Abruzzo, a Democrat, to discuss this bill and ensure that there was no sex offender registry information included.

The passage of this bill is a big win for sexual freedom - recognizing that certain activities (like "sexting") are going to happen and if punishment has to happen (and that's a debate for another post), it's not a punishment that would ruin a young person's life.

Congratulations to Senator Dean and Representative Abruzzo and to all the individuals who helped to pass this bill. The bill has gone to Governor Rick Scott who can, of course, veto it, sign it, or let it become law without his signature.

I'll keep you posted. (imgsrc)


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I'm assuming here that "sexting" as it's outlined in the bill involves the sexually explicit texting of images or words from minors to minors or adults to minors?

It seems inane that "sexting" would be a crime for adults to adults.

Florida's SB 888 creates the crime of "sexting", the transmission of sexually explicit pictures, often by cell phone.

**jaw drops**

What?! Isn't that protected speech? Does that make the entire pornography industry illegal, or only for pics transmitted by cell phone?

I really hope there is some additional qualification here, perhaps sending images without the subjects permission, or as a form of sexual harassment. Not ten minutes ago I sent a topless pic of myself to a lover. Even the "lenient" fine and community service for first time offenders seems like a rather severe punishment for that.

Phew! I looked it up myself and it looks like the crime of sexting is the transmission of sexually explicit pictures - of a minor - and the more lenient punishments only apply if the offender is a minor as well.

It's frustrating that nudity is the measure of harm rather than sexual harassment, consent, etc, but it's a lot easier to understand how this is a step forward with the understanding that the subject being legislated is going from child pornography laws to fines and community service, rather than criminalizing currently protected speech.

Thanks for looking that up, Tobi. I was thinking the same thing.

It's also strange that Florida is ahead of the curve here. but go them anyway.

I can't begin to fathom how making sexting illegal is in any way acceptable. Explicitness to minors, yes, but between consenting adults? How is that any better than banning certain sex acts? I don't get it, it seems like another Law For Prudes, in order to Protect The Children.

If I want to send a picture of my breasts to a playmate, friend, doctor, lover, whatever, how is it /anyone's/ business but mine and theirs? And if it's aimed at people doing it nonconsensually or harassingly, they ought to be VERY clear about that, or this is quickly going to become 'get pulled over for a tail light out, get your phone searched for Illegal Tits'.

I think skipping the 'should this be banned' argument to focus on 'what should the penalty be' is extremely poor judgement.

I think the law is aimed (like the one just passed in Indiana!) at teens sending naked pictures of themselves to classmates, etc.