State Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Garden City, recently announced that his legislation, the “Cyber-Crime Youth Rescue Act,” has been signed into law by Governor Cuomo.
The new law will give courts an alternative to criminal prosecution of teenagers who engage in “sexting,” the practice of exchanging explicit cell phone images of themselves or others.
“The dangerous combination of teenagers behaving provocatively and impulsively is not new,” Hannon said. “But cell phone technology has made it so easy for teens to exchange pictures with their peers.”
The new law gives courts and prosecutors an option to allow teens to complete an eight-hour education course in exchange for having criminal “sexting” charges dropped and also adds a new common-sense option for District Attorneys who would otherwise be required to charge teens with a more egregious criminal act.
“This mostly teenage practice of ‘sexting’ and posting sexual images online is a nationwide problem,” Hannon said. “Because of its relatively new nature, it has perplexed parents, school administrators and law enforcement authorities.”
Prosecutors in several states have charged these teenagers, who have texted photographs of themselves or their friends, with the ‘distribution of child pornography.’
While the new law does not change those penalties, it allows prosecutors to ask the court to impose a newly developed education program which is tailored to address the prevention of ‘sexting’ and similar offenses in the future, as an option in such cases.
“We don’t want kids to engage in sexting and other potentially reckless or destructive behavior,” Hannon said. “We do want to keep them from being charged with the ‘distribution of child pornography’ in the absence of any other alternatives. This law seeks to educate teens to the dangers of sexting without punishing them with the same laws that are usually reserved for porn merchants and child predators.”