The Georgia legislature has passed House Bill 156 which, among other things, includes “Romeo and Juliet” language designed to protect teens who send sexual pictures to each other via text message or email.
“Sexting” was formerly prosecuted as a felony offense just like any other child pornography crime, however, under the new law it will be classified as a misdemeanor when committed by teenagers.
Under the new law, which amends the Georgia statute relating to sexual exploitation of children, a teenager who either creates or possesses a sexually explicit image of himself or herself is guilty of a misdemeanor, but only in the following situations: (1) the individual depicted must be at least 14 years old at the time the image was created, (2) the person in possession of the image cannot be over the age of 18, and (3) the person depicted must have consented to both the creation of the image and the distribution of it. An amendment to Georgia’s computer or electronic pornography and child exploitation act will reflect the same changes.
H.B. 156 also provides some limits on the use of these sexual images. The person in possession of the image cannot redistribute it either to harass the individual depicted or for a commercial purpose.
H.B. 156 also amends the Georgia law relating to electronically furnishing obscene materials to minors. It will now be a misdemeanor if the individual receiving the materials is at least 14 years old, the individual consents to the receipt of the materials, and the individual furnishing the materials is not over the age of 18.
Lastly, H.B. 156 provides that the offense of obscene internet contact with a child is a misdemeanor if the victim is at least 14 years old and the individual making the obscene contact is not over the age of 18.
With incidents of teen sexting on the rise (See our recent post), many welcome these changes to Georgia’s sex offense laws which reflect today’s teenagers’ sexual behavior and use of technology. Many felt that charging children who sext with felony possession of child pornography was too harsh, which led to inconsistent prosecution of these cases throughout the state.
Please see Our Cases page to learn about how we defend people in Georgia accused of serious sex offense allegations.
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