As New Jersey criminal defense lawyers, we’ve noticed an overwhelming majority of teenagers don't understand that when they send or view sexually explicit images of themselves or others on their mobile devices, they could be charged under New Jersey’s child pornography laws. Most of these teenagers, who send nude images of themselves to others, are doing it out of a misguided sense of fun, without any realization of the serious consequences involved. A new bill introduced in the New Jersey Legislature would establish an education program to warn teenagers about the consequences of texting, instead of prosecution.
The bill, A 1561, has been sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, who says she has come across too many instances of teenagers being charged under New Jersey tough sex crimes laws for sexting. The bill would require the New Jersey Attorney General's Office to create an education program to make teenagers aware that sexting can be treated as a criminal offense and can result in criminal penalties. Teenagers under the program would also be educated about the social consequences of a sexting conviction. The program would also educate teenagers about how exchanging sexually explicit images of themselves or others on the Internet could have long-term implications for their future, as well as the link between such images and cyber bullying and another Internet crimes. However, the bill would only cover first-time sexting offenders.
With the pervasive use of Smartphone technology, we need updates to New Jersey criminal laws to ensure teenagers who engage in foolish, but not willfully criminal behavior, are not prosecuted for such behavior, but are educated about its implications.