OLYMPIA – The Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, to bring state law into the 21st century and help protect our children.
Washington law currently makes no distinction between minors who make, send or possess sexually explicit images of themselves and minors who maliciously send images of others. The result is that penalties are severe. Under current law, any minor sending an image of themselves to another person his or her own age could face felony charges, up to five years in prison, and mandatory sex offender registration.
“As every parent knows, kids sometimes make mistakes,” Dhingra said. “We hope the mistakes they make become opportunities for learning and growth. Children today face a new set of challenges as evolving technologies have opened the door to mistakes that can haunt them for the rest of their lives.”
Senate Bill 6566 does not alter existing safeguards like harassment protections or a prosecutor’s ability to make a special allegation of sexual motivation. Additionally, it directs the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs to establish a workgroup to study the harms caused by the exchange of intimate images by minors and report its findings to the Legislature.
“Teenagers should not be labeled sex offenders and felons for sending intimate pictures of themselves to someone they know,” Dhingra said. “This bill ensures that kids are held responsible but have the opportunity to learn and recover from their mistakes, while still holding accountable those who distribute explicit photos of others.”
Senate Bill 6566 passed with strong bipartisan support by a vote of 31-16.