SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – Tennesseans prepare for dozens of new state laws set to take effect in just a few days on July 1. Prosecutors say under one of those new laws, a minor who either intentionally possesses or sends sexually explicit images of a minor via text or social media could end up in juvenile court.
It’s a problem that Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney William Harper says he has “seen just kind of spread like wildfire among the teenage population,” and it’s something teenagers have access to in the palm of their hands.
“When a picture like that gets out it will blast around a school in a matter of hours,” said Emma Lane, a mom to four boys and an aunt to five girls.
Lane said she’s hopeful the new law will help curb the behavior.
“If they think there’s going to be legal consequences they will think twice,” Lane said.
“A minor who either possesses or who sends or distributes sexually explicit images of another minor, it’s now considered to be an unruly act,” Harper said.
It’s a crime that could now be punishable in juvenile court and something that will be up to the judge to decide on a case by case basis.
“Do you have multiple victims here? Is this a case where it was a onetime thing? Are the two minors consenting or was it a situation where the one minor was doing it as a spiteful act and sending it to one of his friends,” Harper said.
With this new law on the horizon, Harper asks parents to be alert when it comes to what their children are sending and receiving.
“You need to be vigilant about what your kids are taking photos of and what and who they are sharing those photos with, because with this law out there now, there is a possibility they could end up in juvenile court as a result,” said Harper.
The law will take effect on July 1.