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Sexting: Is it a crime in Tennessee?

Earlier this month, lawmakers finally passed a sexting bill in Tennessee to modernize the antiquated law as it relates to minors. In a world where social media and cell phones are prevalent, teens communicate primarily via some form of electronic communication. It is quick, easy, and provides the ability to express your opinions to a large following. The downside; however, is once it is sent or submitted, it remains in the cyber world forever. As electronic communication has grown to be the primary means of communication between the younger generations, incidents of sexting, or sending sexually explicit photos via text or email have become widespread.

Under the current law, minors sending and receiving sexually suggestive photos could be labeled as felons or sex offenders for involvement with child pornography. This one mistake, whether sending, receiving, or simply being in possession of nude photos, could place the minor on the sex offender registry until age 25. This means that the minor would be required to report this on all job and college applications.

The new bill passed almost unanimously in both the House and Senate in early May 2017, with expectations that the Governor will sign it around summer of 2017, would make sexting between minors illegal, but would allow minors sending and receiving sexually explicit photos of themselves to face less serious consequences. Instead of a charge of sexual exploitation of a minor or possession of child pornography, the minor could be charged with an unruly offense in juvenile court. This may help with the sexting epidemic to allow victims to come forward, especially those who have received unwanted sexually explicit photos.

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