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Proposed N.J. State Law Would Ease Sanctions For Teenage Sexting

State Assembly Committee Advanced Bill This Week
A survey found that teens who “sext” are more likely to be having sex. (Credit: CBS 2)

A survey found that teens who “sext” are more likely to be having sex. (Credit: CBS 2)

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey teens caught sexting naked pictures to one another would no longer have to register as sex offenders under a bill advanced this week by a state Assembly committee.

The change is an effort to resolve a complication that has arisen nearly two decades after New Jersey adopted the nation’s first Megan’s Law in 1994, requiring sex offenders to register and the community to be notified.

As the law is written, teens caught sexting now must receive the same treatment.

Under the proposed changes, minors who share nude photos of themselves with other minors could still be adjudicated as delinquent in family court, but they would no longer be subject to the offender registry.

Maureen Kanka, the mother of Megan’s Law namesake Megan Kanka, who was seven when she was raped and killed by a neighbor in Hamilton Township in 1994, told the committee Monday that keeping teens who are not serious predators off the registry is a priority for her.

Other revisions to Megan’s Law in the bill would toughen penalties for adult offenders and also for those on the registry who fail to notify authorities when they move to a different home. Another change would implement a $30 monthly fee to be paid by offenders; the money would be used to hire additional parole officers to monitor sex offenders.

After the passage by the Law and Public Safety committee on Monday, the bill heads to the full Assembly. The bill cleared the full Senate unanimously earlier this year.

A separate law signed by Gov. Chris Christie in 2011 allowed teens to avoid prosecution for first-time sexting offenses.

Lawmakers first took up the issue after a 14-year-old girl allegedly uploaded nude pictures of herself and was arrested on child pornography charges in 2010. She eventually received probation and court-ordered counseling.

Several states already have passed similar laws.

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