By Frank Knaack
Associate Director of Public Policy and Advocacy
Yesterday, the Star-Telegram reported that the Texas District & County Attorney Association is advising its prosecutors to largely ignore the “sexting” law passed by the legislature a few months ago. Shannon Edmonds, the group’s legislative representative, stated: “[i]t’s a bill written by people who don’t understand the criminal-justice system, … [p]rosecutors and police officers are going to have to use their discretion and ignore the absurdity that was written into the law.” The association’s decision is music to our ears.
As we argued throughout the last legislative session, the bill was well-meaning legislation, but offered the wrong response. It is conservatively estimated that 20 percent of youth have engaged in “sexting.” Sending these youth into the criminal justice system will fail to address the root behavior and also saddle them with the short- and long-term consequences of a criminal record. Instead, we should focus on real solutions, such as educating youth about the lasting impact of sharing private images over the Internet. Furthermore, in many circumstances “sexting” is constitutionally protected speech. Laws are already available to prosecute individuals for committing crimes against youth, including harassment, bullying, and child pornography. We commend the Texas District & County Attorney Association for their strong stand.
Want to help? Please contact your state legislators and demand that they repeal this legislation during the next legislative session!