Connecticut lawmakers are considering a way to keep young people off the state's sex offender registry if convicted of sexting.
Sexting -- a contraction of sex and texting -- is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs electronically, often between mobile phones.
Under existing law in Connecticut, sending or receiving messages that include nude or sexual images falls under the state's child pornography statutes. Those convicted are put on a state sex-offender registry.
The proposed bill, which was being debated Monday by the state legislature's joint judiciary committee in Hartford, would reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor when the sexting is between minors of 13 to 18 years of age who are in some sort of relationship.
At times, minor children do foolish acts without appreciating the consequences of their actions, said Rosa Remimbas, a Republican state representative.
Paul Vance, spokesman for the Connecticut state police, said no teens have yet been arrested in the state for sexting.
A 2009 survey conducted for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children found that 19 percent of teens had sent, received or forwarded nude or nearly nude photos through text message or e-mail.
At least 15 states have introduced or are considering bills or resolutions regarding sexting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
John Danaher, commissioner with Connecticut's Department of Public Safety, said the bill strikes a good balance between asserting the illegality of the activity while, at the same time, removing the age population from the serious consequences of being required to register as a sex offender.
The judiciary committee will next consider whether to send the bill on to the state's House of Representatives.
(Reporting by Ros Krasny, editing by Michelle Nichols and Bill Trott)