STEVENS CO., Wash. – The Stevens County prosecutor is making a big push to discourage teens and kids from sexting.
A meeting on Tuesday night was just one opportunity for parents and students to learn more about the legal ramifications of sending dirty messages.
Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Lech Radzimski said he has seen a number of sexting cases on his desk since he joined the office eight years ago. He specializes in cases involving juveniles.
"I have been reviewing police reports and I've prosecuted a couple cases that have started out as sexting,” said Radzimski.
Three months ago, Radzimski began working on a presentation for parents and teens.
"This is an issue that needs to be addressed at the community level,” said Radzimski.
So far, Radzimski has visited eight area schools to talk about sexting and how the wrong message could mean serious consequences.
"Sexting itself is not a crime, but when you have juveniles doing this, you're implicating all the child pornography statutes,” said Radzimski.
In Washington state, child pornography laws can apply to anyone sharing explicit images of a minor. The law makes no distinction to who is sharing it. It does not matter if it was shared by an adult or another minor, or if a minor took the explicit image and chose to send it out themselves. This is a fact Radzimski said is often lost on teens.
"As juvenile prosecutors, we struggle with this because we are applying laws that were created 10, 15, 20 years ago, that were meant to address something different and now we are applying it to this kind of phenomena in our society,” said Radzimski.
Sharing dirty pictures or messages from minors can mean fines, probation, being put on the sex offender register and even jail time.
"It's actually illegal. It's criminal. A lot of the times, I don't think juveniles are thinking about that when they are engaging in that and they are just doing it without thinking about ramifications,” said Radzimski.
"I really did not know the extent of how bad the kids could be charged with some of things they are doing and it definitely seems very innocent to them, but really it's a really big issue,” said parent Rose Henn.
"Whenever I meet somebody as a prosecutor, it's never on a good day. Generally, something terrible has happened, my goal is to cut down on the number of those meetings,” said Radzimski.