Juveniles In Washington Can Now Sext and Not Get Prosecuted

Back in August, I blogged about the injustice of a juvenile receiving a criminal conviction for sexting (see “Sexting Teen Convicted Dealing In Child Pornography”). The Washington Supreme Court invited our legislature to fix this injustice. The legislature appeared willing to do so (see “Washington Considers Changes”). 

Substitute House Bill 1742 (SHB 1742) describes the Washington Legislature’s attempt to deal with the inequality of sexually explicit depictions of minors when the participants are juveniles. The legal changes are numerous and complex, requiring an attorney to sort things out! Below is a summary of the changes: 

  • Minors are, generally, excluded involving dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
  • In cases involving depictions with juveniles, a new class of crimes will apply exclusively to minors.
  • The limits on juvenile criminal responsibility of one minor dealing in depictions of another minor 13 years of age or older is never greater than a gross misdemeanor. A juvenile is no longer facing a felony charge.
  • There is an exemption for minors from any criminal responsibility for dealing in depictions of themselves, unless the minor sells the depictions.
  • Prosecutors must “divert” certain juvenile offenses involving dealing in depictions of a minor if it’s the juvenile’s first offense. “Divert” means there is no juvenile criminal “adjudication”. 

The legislature also added a layer of administrative bureaucracy to research the potential harm caused by the exchange of intimate images by minors. As someone who has represented juveniles in these circumstances, the trauma involved can be substantial. 

These are important updates to the law and a step in the right direction. However, there may still be issues as they are put into practice. If you have a criminal matter and would like to consult with a lawyer, contact Jan Olson at Ellis, Li & McKinstry, PLLC. You can reach Jan by calling (206) 682-0565 or by e-mail at jolson@elmlaw.com.