Sexting bill would divert teens from adult sex offense rules

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A proposal aimed at keeping youth who send explicit text messages from being charged and registered under adult sex offender laws has cleared the Washington Legislature.

The bill would create a new group of crimes reserved specifically for minors, with most set aside as misdemeanors – a status that would exempt convicted youth from having to register as sex offenders.

The state Senate approved the bill 25-19 late Wednesday night; it was earlier approved by the House, and now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for consideration.

Advocates say the change addresses a catch-22 where even teens reporting an image to adults could be charged, but critics charge it signals to youth that sending such explicit messages acceptable.