South Dakota House Committee Passes New “Sexting” Definition on to Full House Vote

South Dakota lawmakers passed a key legislative hurdle yesterday to redefine “sexting” in their state’s laws: 

A South Dakota lawmaker more narrowly defined “juvenile sexting” on Monday, saying he doesn’t think the illegal activity should fall under the child pornography law.

An amended version of Mitchell Republican Sen. Mike Vehle’s bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on Monday.

In the measure, juvenile sexting includes intentionally creating, producing, possessing and distributing through any computer or digital media a photograph or digitized image of nude minors. The bill makes the act of juvenile sexting punishable by a Class 1 misdemeanor.

One key aspect of the bill clarifies existing law so that a child who receives a sexually explicit picture, but deletes the photo, will not be charged.

Senator Mike Vehle explains his reasons for sponsoring the bill:

“What we have on the books now for existing law is you either give them a slap on the wrists or you charge them with child pornography and they need to register as a sex offender,” Vehle said. “The problem here is that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.”

But, Vehle said, sexting isn’t a light matter because of its long-lasting effects. Once the images are on the Internet, Vehle said, “they spread like wildfire” and can land in the hands of sexual predators.

Image: Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Alex Hunt

About Alex Hunt

Alex Hunt is a former Yale & Irene Rosenberg Graduate Fellow at the Center for Children, Law & Policy. Alex graduated from the University of Texas in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in government. Before entering law school, he taught middle school math at YES Prep Southwest in Houston with Teach For America. In 2010, he received New Leaders' EPIC Spotlight Teacher Award, a national award for teachers with outstanding student growth. Alex graduated cum laude from the University of Houston Law Center in May 2013. During law school, Alex was Casenotes & Comments Editor for the Houston Journal of International Law, interned for both state and federal judges, and served as Vice President of the Health Law Organization (HLO). In addition, Alex has received the Irving J. Weiner Memorial Scholarship Award (for a year of outstanding work in the UH Law Center Legal Clinic), the Napoleon Beazley Defender Award (for outstanding work on behalf of children), the Ann Dinsmore Forman Memorial Child Advocacy Award, the Mont P. Hoyt Memorial Writing Award for an Outstanding Comment on a Topic in International Law, and he was a finalist for Texas Access to Justice's Law Student Pro Bono Award. Alex is currently in private family law practice with the Hunt Law Firm, P.L.L.C. in Katy, Texas.

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