Under the current version of New Jersey’s Megan’s Law, teenagers who text sexually explicit photos or videos to other teens could be required to register as sex offenders and inform the community of the offense. Many lawmakers agree, however, that a teenager should not be regarded as a sex offender for life because of a “sexting” incident.
The New Jersey General Assembly was poised to pass a bill that would do away with the registry requirement for teenagers caught sexting, but an unrelated provision in the legislation has stalled the bill’s progress.
Some lawmakers took issue with a provision requiring that sex offenders pay a monthly fee of $30 to cover the cost of more oversight on the part of parole officers. Earlier this year, the New Jersey Senate unanimously approved a similar bill.
State lawmakers aren’t the only ones who want minors caught sexting exempted from registering as sex offenders. The mother of the girl after whom Megan’s Law is named also spoke with legislators in November, saying that teens who are not considered violent predators should not be subject to sex offender registration under Megan’s Law.
If the proposed bill is passed, it would make the issue of teen sexting a matter for family court, and teens caught engaging in such behavior would no longer have to register as sex offenders.
One of the legislators who sponsored the change said that the bill may again come up for a vote in early January.
If New Jersey residents want to learn more about Juvenile Conference Committee hearings and other legal matters minors may have to confront, our page on juvenile crimes is a good place to start.
Source: The Inquirer, “N.J. bill to shield texting teens stalls,” Melanie Burney, Dec. 21, 2013