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Monday, October 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  WA Government

Legislature eases penalties for ‘sexting’ teens

UPDATED: Thu., April 11, 2019, 8:34 p.m.

Washington state Senators work Tuesday, March 12, 2019, on the Senate floor at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
Washington state Senators work Tuesday, March 12, 2019, on the Senate floor at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
By Ryan Blake The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – Minors convicted of sending or receiving nude photos would no longer have to register as sex offenders under a bill that passed the Legislature this week.

The bill to ease or eliminate punishments for minors who exchange sexually explicit photos passed the Senate 25-19 and now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee.

No one could have anticipated the culture of “sexting” a few years ago, and lawmakers should attempt to understand and reflect the realities of a younger generation, said Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond.

“This is actually a nuanced approach related to the conduct that our children are engaging in,” she said. The current law “was written dealing with child pornography at a time when no one had cellphones.”

The current law classifies any communication of sexually explicit images between minors as a class B felony, which requires anyone convicted to register as a sex offender.

Teenagers don’t know they’re engaging in conduct that will haunt them for the rest of their lives, said Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle.

Sending, viewing or possessing images among minors would no longer be a crime under the bill. Those who knowingly distribute or publish explicit photos of another minor could be convicted of a gross misdemeanor, with severity depending on the content of the image. Minors who sell explicit photos could still be charged with a class B felony.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, proposed an amendment that would have eased portions of current law, but would have kept certain restrictions, such as felony charges for minors who disseminate explicit photos.

Without the amendment, teens who distribute depictions of “perverse sexual activity” wouldn’t be held accountable, he said. The amendment failed.

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