While we don’t believe “sexting” ought to be a crime in all instances, we are pleased to see that Florida is taking a more measured approach than most states. Florida’s SB 888 creates the crime of “sexting”, the transmission of sexually explicit pictures, often by cell phone. But this bill is different from legislation in other states because it imposes a series of rational penalties that increase with each occurrence, beginning with a fine and community service. In other states, penalties include registration on the sex offender registry, ruining young lives over a relatively innocent exchange of personal pictures.
In an unusual bipartisan effort, Senator Charlie Dean and Representative Joe Abruzzo worked together to pass this bill. Senator Dean is a retired Sheriff from Citrus County, Florida and a Republican. During my last trip to Tallahassee, where I was supporting the ACLU of FL by testifying against shackling of incarcerated pregnant women, I took the time to meet with the staff of Representative Abruzzo, a Democrat, to discuss this bill and ensure that there was no sex offender registry information included.
The passage of this bill is a big win for sexual freedom – recognizing that certain activities (like “sexting”) are going to happen and if punishment has to happen (and that’s a debate for another post), it’s not a punishment that would ruin a young person’s life.
Congratulations to Senator Dean and Representative Abruzzo and to all the individuals who helped to pass this Bill. The Bill has gone to Governor Rick Scott who can, of course, veto it, sign it, or let it become law without his signature.
We will keep you posted.