The Washington State House of Representatives passed House Bill 1742 on a bipartisan vote of 57-39. The Responsible Teen Communications Act, sponsored by Rep. Noel Frame (D-Seattle), updates Washington’s laws to reflect current technology, and ensure minors sharing sexually explicit images or videos of themselves with their peers (commonly known was “sexting”) are not automatically charged with a felony sex offense and forced to register as a sex offender.

According to a recent study, more than one in four teenagers report having received a sexually explicit image, while around 15 percent of teens reported sending a “sext.”

Under current law, it is a felony sex offense for anyone to view, possess, or distribute any images, videos or other depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. That means a minor sharing an intimate image of themselves is treated the same as an adult who takes explicit photos of children to exploit them, and can be charged with a class B felony sex offense. A felony criminal record carries lifelong consequences, making it hard to find housing, employment and education.

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