The Florida Legislature Accidentally Legalized Sexting Among Teens

Feb 3, 2015
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The Florida legislature is commonly considered to be one of the stupidest law-making bodies in the United States, and for good reason. Who can forget the time the state’s fine representatives inadvertently banned all computers and smartphones? Or the time the legislature unintentionally outlawed sex? Now, however, the Sunshine State’s legislators may have outdone themselves: In an effort to outlaw sexting between teenagers, Florida accidentally legalized it.

Here’s the sorry story of the state’s latest legal mishap: In 2011, the legislature passed a “sexting” statute barring minors from sending images of nudity (their own or somebody else’s) to other minors. The first offense would qualify as only a civil infraction; minors who violated the law would merely have to perform court-ordered community service or pay a $60 fine. The second and third offenses, however, would qualify as misdemeanors, while the fourth offense would qualify as a felony.

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Under this law, Florida prosecutors thought they had a slam-dunk case when they brought charges against a minor who texted a picture of her own vagina to a classmate because she was “bored.” But the state quickly ran into a problem: Florida law doesn’t give any court jurisdiction of civil infractions by juveniles—as opposed to criminal infractions—and the sexting statute doesn’t grant any court this kind of jurisdiction. Accordingly, no court in the state currently has legal authority to hear a case involving minors sexting. The prosecutors attempting to prosecute the sexting teen got their case thrown out of court, a decision an appeals court later affirmed.

 

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