A new teen sexting law took effect Saturday in Florida, still making it illegal for teenagers to send sexually explicit photos, but first-time offenders will get lighter penalties.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott pushed for the new teen that reduces the punishment for first-time offenders, but the law can still brand repeat offenders with sex-offender status for life.
Previously, a minor who sent or received any explicit photo was liable to be charged with a felony and would have been forced to register as a sex offender. But under the new law passed in June, a first offense is considered noncriminal and is punishable by up to eight hours of community service or a $60 fine. The second offense will be considered a misdemeanor and the third will become a felony and carry a maximum five-year prison sentence.
When the child pornography laws were written, they didn't take into account the advances in technology, such as cellphones and computers, state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, a Democrat, who wrote the bill, told the Los Angeles Times. The punishment did not fit the crime.
Abruzzo added that the law allows teenagers to make a mistake but learn the consequences of their actions.
At the end of the day, we're not going to ruin your life and label you a sex offender, he told the Times. It gives parents and the school the opportunity to let them know that this could become serious if you continue.
Other states have sexting laws in place to prevent the act or ease the punishment.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently signed a bill to have first-time sexting offenders join an educational program to learn about the consequences of sexting instead of facing a felony child pornography charges.
Texas has a similar law, according to the LA Times.
But not all are in favor of the some of the penalties under the new Florida law.
NBC Miami reported that the third conviction penalty doesn't sit well with civil libertarians.
They took a bad law and made it worse, Howard Simon, spokesman of the American Civil Liberty Union of Florida, told NBC Miami. It should be with the teachers and parents, not the criminal justice system.
Simon also said the ACLU will likely take the whole law to court in the coming months when teenagers start facing their third offence and are facing prison and being branded as a sex offender.