Playing Legislative Catch-up in 2010 with a Growing, High-Tech Phenomenon: Evolving Statutory Approaches for Addressing Teen Sexting

Clay Calvert, Kara Carnley Murrhee, Jackie Marie Steve


This article analyzes and critiques legislation adopted by states in 2010 to address the burgeoning phenomenon of teen sexting. Sixteen different states in 2010, stretching from California to New York, considered bills or resolutions designed to address, in one manner or another, teen sexting. By early November 2010, sexting bills had been signed into law by the governors of Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois and Louisiana. To illustrate the differences, as well as the strengths and weaknesses among the new sexting laws, the article applies each of them to the facts of realistic sexting scenario. Significantly, this analysis of the laws through the lens of hypothetical fact pattern reveals that the low-tech, downstream transmission of hard copies of sexual images of minors – images that were initially transmitted by cell phones by minors – appears to escape the reach of all of the 2010 sexting laws. The article argues that this gap or loophole in the new laws should be addressed by amending them. Ultimately, the article demonstrates a distinct lack of uniformity across the sexting statutes adopted in 2010. For instance, even when it comes to what would appear to be the most objective element of the offense of sexting – the maximum age of the possible perpetrator – there is disagreement. Such disparity creates an uneven patchwork of legislation that fails to give minors proper notice of what sexting activities are permissible.

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