A 17 year old in Cattaraugus County faces felony sex offense charges for receiving and forwarding a nude photo from an underage teen girlfriend. According to the Buffalo News, he is faced with felony charges of “possessing a sexual performance of a child under the age of 17” and “promoting a sexual performance of a child under the age of 17”. If convicted, he could face years in prison, and a lifetime as a federal registered sex offender.
These very serious charges sound over the top for what could easily be stupid, but understandable teen behavior. However, New York laws on child pornography make no distinction between teens sending photos of other teens, and adults distributing nude photos of underage kids.
Depending on the exact facts and circumstances of this case, if there was no threat or coercion, it easily could have been two teens acting foolishly, and one teen showing exceptionally poor judgment, to be sure. But many people would question whether such an offense should result in such severe and life changing consequences.
Sexting laws reform have yet to hit New York state. Many other states are writing laws that allow for misdemeanor criminal charges for sexting, giving prosecutors a lesser option when the offense involves teens. The option of juvenile court, education, and the possibility of some kind of deferred prosecution where the charges could be later dropped is also a popular provision.
It remains to be seen if the New York State Assembly will take up the cause of sexting laws reform, as has happened in other states.