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March 6, 2014

Bill aims to loosen teen sexting penalties

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma House Bill 2541, authored by state Rep. Terry O’Donnell, looks to reduce penalties for sexting, teens exchanging sexually explicit messages and/or photographs via electronic devices.

Right now in Oklahoma, anyone convicted of sexting-style offenses are immediately labeled sex offenders and face felony charges under Oklahoma’s child pornography laws.

“Due to the draconian penalties under current Oklahoma law, I discovered that a number of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors were simply choosing not to take any action against the teen offenders,” said Rep. O’Donnell, R-Catoosa. “This measure is a modern solution to the ever-changing face of technology and problems stemming from ways in which teenagers communicate.”

Instead of facing such severe charges, HB 2541 states that any individual under 18 years of age who engages in the transmission of obscene material or child pornography via electronic means with another minor over the age of 13 shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

A fine for the offense between $500 and $1,000 may be imposed upon the juvenile offenders, depending upon the circumstance of the crime. The measure also empowers the court to order the offender and his or her parent or guardian to complete an education course regarding the legal and social consequences of sexting.

The measure gained bipartisan support in the House, passing 92-0. It now heads to the state Senate for further consideration.

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