Rewrite sexting law to protect kids

From an editorial in the Fayetteville Observer on Wednesday:

The law is supposed to protect our children from 21st century technology. But its unintended consequences are dangerous. If we don’t make some changes that reflect reality, too many of our kids are going to graduate from high school with an undeserved felony record.

Despite adults’ eternal complaints about “kids these days,” the fact is, today’s kids aren’t all that different from what the rest of us were like as teenagers.

Today, cellphones often play a role in kids’ explorations of their sexuality – thus “sexting,” emailing sexually revealing photos. As we’re learning this week, sexting can lead to felony charges, even if it’s between consenting teens. Conviction can put a kid’s name on the sex-offender registry for life. Between that and the felony record, his life is over before it began, because in a moment of lust, he shared too much of himself with his girlfriend.

Cormega Zyon Copening is charged with doing just that. He faces charges of second-degree and third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. He and his girlfriend were 16 last winter, when they were charged.

If they had just had sex, they would face no charges.

If those photos had been widely distributed, or had been taken by an adult who had no business in a sexual relationship with a child, that’s a matter worthy of the courts. But this wasn’t that. The penalty could ruin two lives.

The law is supposed to protect our kids, not victimize them. Rewrite it so it does.