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New Jersey bill to change teen sex registration in sexting cases

The requirement to register as a sex offender in New Jersey is one of the potential consequences that can follow allegations of a sex crime. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office says that potential recidivism of sex offenders justifies a registration system to help law enforcement identify alleged sex offenders. The state says that the law is needed to protect the public.

In New Jersey, the Megan’s Law registration and notification systems have been around for nearly 20 years. Back in the 1990s, cellphones were not as commonplace as they are in today’s culture. They were also not as sophisticated.

Today’s smartphones, cellphones and other forms of electronic communication devices have many functions that ideas like Megan’s Law may never have contemplated. Many teens may find themselves being hauled into the justice system over allegations of sending images through a cellphone to a friend—a trend that is commonly referred to as sexting.

Lawmakers in New Jersey are considering a measure to modify the state’s sex offender registration laws to address the harsh consequences of the law when a teen sexting case hits the court system. As the law currently stands, authorities can pursue sex offense charges against minors who share nude photos with other minors. If adjudicated delinquent, the minor must register as a sex offender. A state assembly committee advanced a bill last week to eliminate the sex registration requirement for certain offenses related to sexting among teens.

Notably, with the constant barrage of images and selfies on the Internet, and scandals without charges among politicians over sexting making the news on a frequent basis, the bill being considered in the assembly does not modify the law to eliminate the offense altogether. But, the measure may reduce exposure to one of the harsh consequences of a sex offense allegation in specified cases.

When a person faces a criminal charge, or a juvenile is hauled into family court in a delinquency proceeding, the potential consequences can be harsh. Potential loss of liberty, fines and a criminal record can still attach-- if a person is adjudicated or convicted of an offense. For teens and adults alike a record can be long lasting—showing up in background checks that can impede future opportunities.

Source:, “Bill in Assembly to revise Megan's Law would spare "sexting" teenagers," The Associated Press, Nov. 20, 2013

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