Bil Browning

Sexting: Indiana looks at new law aimed at teens

Filed By Bil Browning | January 25, 2010 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Indiana, Jim Merritt, SB0224, sexting, sexting laws, state senate

UPDATE: Senator Merritt just tweeted: "My bill, SB 224 Sexting by Minors just passed committee unanimously."

It's not often that I give kudos to a Republican - especially Indiana state legislators who tend to trend toward the anti-sex religious fundamentalist flavor. My own state senator, Jim Merritt, sexting.jpgis trying to lead the state forward into the new era, but so far hasn't seen much traction. Merritt is trying to define "sexting" and find a punishment more "appropriate" for teens busted sending dirty pics to each other. The bill has been tabled in committee "for further study."

SB0224 - Electronic dissemination of indecent material. Provides that a child commits a delinquent act if the child creates, transmits, or possesses a photograph, video, or other material that shows a minor in a state of nudity. Creates a defense to child exploitation, possession of child pornography, and dissemination of material harmful to minors if the defendant is a child, the offense constitutes a delinquent act, and: (1) the photograph, video, or other material does not show a child less than thirteen (13) years of age; or (2) the defendant did not knowingly or intentionally transmit the photograph, video, or other material to ten or more persons.

Indiana law currently requires the prosecutor to file felony charges against the minor (a conviction would require the teen to register as a sexual offender) or look the other way. This has been brought into stark relief in a recent case of a substitute teacher who sexted with one of his female students before having sex with her. The proposed legislation would downgrade the felony charge to "delinquent act" status, but it's still a crime.

"It has to have some level of crime in order to have the rehabilitative aspect to it," said Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who is supporting the bill. "But it's certainly not something that would follow them for the rest of their lives."
"He's the predator in this case, not the female student, but, technically, she's in violation. Technically, we could charge her with a felony," he said.

While it's refreshing to see a Hoosier Republican who's solution to a problem surrounding a sexual issue isn't to simply ban something and hope the problem goes away, I still wonder what message we're sending by telling teenagers that the sight of their naked body (or someone else's) is something worth punishing. I can understand the reasoning why you don't want children sending naked pics of themselves around the web, but at what point do we stop to acknowledge healthy sexual exploration and adolescent flirting?

I'll be interested to see what Projectors think about this. What's the solution to sexting among teens? Or is one needed?

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i think the questions you raise at the end of the article are good. the same questions could be asked of our age of consent laws and why minors are treated as un/non/a-sexual and have no agency over their genitalia...

and has there been any study to determine whether sex offender registries actually stop recidivism. i remember hearing about one that said they simply dont. but cant remember where.

and surely we all know that sex laws, more often than not, are over-zealously applied to queers.


The law needs to catch up with technology. 50 years ago, a teen would rarely have access to the technology to produce teen porn, so there was almost always an adult to blame. Nowadays any kid with a digital camera, laptop, or cell phone can make what's legally kiddie porn.

Also, the law should catch up on the other end and do something about people who disseminate naked pics of people without their consent, even if they're adults. Now that's mostly been the domain of child porn laws, but if the victim is an adult, they can't depend on the law to try to stop the dissemination of the images.

Joel Steele | January 26, 2010 8:09 PM

Those damn kids should be given lengthy prison sentences and have to register as a sex offender for life. There should be NO leniency on texting.

you really think ruining a childs life forever is the answer to this? God I hope you are not a judge.

Joel, I truly hope that was said in sarcasism!!!! If not then it's not just the law which needs to catch up and get into the 21st century, it's you!!!!

Melissa Cochrane | February 1, 2010 1:16 PM

The sex offender registry is wrong. Most of the people on the registry should not be on it. There are some who wrote a dirty letter. Some placed people's names in swinger websites. There is also the ones that get mentioned a lot, the ones who had relationships with minors who were a couple years younger than them. These people have been placed on the registry and their lives are ruined. The children who do texting should experience the same thing these people have. If these have to have their lives ruined and place registry for life, all kids who do sexting must too. There no room for double standards and people should tolerate such a thing. Children need to be protected from themselves. The sex offenders do not need to be supervised 24/7. The children are the ones who need to be supervised 24/7.Wake up, America.

Emily Hagberg | February 13, 2010 4:02 PM

Kori, this is the 21st century. Children are no longer innocent. They need pay for their wrongs. Most of the people on the sex offender registry should not be on the registry. The children should be on that registry instead of them. I believe a sentence less than 5 years and having to be a registered sex offender for life is a mild sentence for these kids doing the sexting. They deserve the same punishment all the other sex offenders get.