State Senate passes bill, 'sexting' teens could avoid felony

State Senate passes bill, 'sexting' teens could avoid felony

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's a disturbing reality that many of your kids are sending naked photos of themselves to other kids. Right now, if your child is busted sending or receiving a nude picture, they could be charged with a felony and registered as a sex offender.

Many state lawmakers feel this punishment doesn't fit the crime. A sexting bill has bipartisan sponsorship and support and has already passed through the state Senate.

"Most children have no idea that exchanging naked images of each other is a felony," said Scott Surovell, a Democratic state senator who co-patroned this bill.

It's something hundreds of Louisa county kids learned the hard way back in 2014.

"A detective uncovered one image, and then when they started going around the school to investigate, they discovered almost half the school, if not the entire school, had other naked images of children in their phone," Surovell remembered.

It was a serious problem for those kids, and police.

"What are we going to do about this? We don't want to make every kid in the school a felon," said Surovell.

None of the kids from Louisa, nor surrounding areas involved, were charged, but it started the conversation about how to punish minors for doing something that adults can do legally.

"You don't want to give a kid a felony for something that wouldn't even be a crime if they were one or two years older," Surovell said.

Now Virginia is considering a law that two dozen other states already have. Minors who send and receive naked images of minors would only be charged with a misdemeanor, and if convicted, they could enter into an education program to clear the charge.

"These ought to be used as teaching moments to sort of get children some education, give them an opportunity to show they're engaged in good conduct and ultimately get the charge dismissed."

The state is drawing a line. Any minor who has 10 or more nude images of minors on their phone could still be charged with a felony.

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