MADISON, Wis (WMTV) - Wisconsin punishes teen sexting under its laws against child pornography related activities, according to the Dept. of Public Instruction .
When it comes to sexting, each case is treated differently because there is no law that specifically addresses it.
Justin Patchin, a professor of criminal justice at UW- Eau Claire and one of the founders of the Cyberbullying Research Center , spends his time researching this topic.
“As it is, prosecutors have to come up with a response on their own and try to figure out the best way of dealing with it. There is no guidance in the legislature,” Patchin said.
He said other states have imposed laws that help guide police and prosecutors on how to approach sexting cases.
“States will provide a range of options for dealing with it so usually they will provide opportunities for informal or diversion programs apart from child pornography,” he said.
According to DPI, in Wisconsin teens who sext may face child pornography charges, which may be heard in juvenile court. There, judges have wider discretion in the penalties imposed.
When it comes to what could happen to students involved in sharing nude photos at Middleton High School
, Patchin said it will depend on the circumstances.
“Taking a more serious stance, if it was exploitation or extortion or threats in order to send more images or manipulative behavior apart from just consensual sharing among teens. I think it's important for the police and prosecutors to get together to learn more about what actually happened and the nature of the harm involved,” he said.
Even in juvenile court, a conviction for possession or viewing child pornography may include a fine of up to $10,000, up to three and a half years of custody, or both, according to DPI.