Three Fairfax County, Va., high school students made cellphone videos of drunken sex acts with fellow teens and shared them among themselves, authorities said. When they go on trial today, they face a charge usually reserved for adult predators: child pornography, the Washington Post reports. The case is one of a number in Virginia where teens caught “sexting” have been charged with a felony that can carry a sentence of 20 years in prison and could require registry as a sex offender.
In many states, the law has not caught up with the combustible mix of teens, technology and sex that has made sexting an issue. Prosecutors must rely on a patchwork of laws created before the rise of smartphones to handle such cases. Some parents and rights groups are calling for a new law that would distinguish sexting from child pornography, create lesser punishments, and focus on educating teenagers, not punishing them. They acknowledge that young victims can be devastated when embarrassing photos or videos are spread among their peers. Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh said prosecutors grapple with how to handle sexting cases. He said that no one wants to slap a teen with a felony sex charge but that those concerns have to be weighed against the impact on a victim when a sexted image or video goes public.