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Teen sexting: One photo sent, life changed forever

Published On: Feb 28 2014 11:16:54 PM CST
Updated On: Mar 01 2014 02:27:34 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's Wanda Moore talks with a C. Oregon teen who sent one photo that changed his life forever.

BEND, Ore. -

Sexting -- sending nude pictures or arousing text messages -- has become part of our modern-day life. But for one Central Oregon teen, who wants to remain anonymous, sending one picture changed his life.

"I'm on supervised probation for 120 months, which is 10 years -- and I sent a picture,” he said.

Last year, when he was 18 years old and in high school, he sent a nude picture of himself to his friend, a 15-year-old girl.

Although there was never any sexual contact between the two, he is now a registered sex offender, on a decade of probation from the charge of first-degree online sexual corruption of a child.

Within a few days, he found himself going from having a job lined up as a wildland firefighter, to being in jail.

"I got completely certified with them (fire officials) -- Friday I was arrested,” he said.

Now he is homeless and has no job, because no one wants to hire him. And he says none of the homeless shelters accept him, either, because he's a registered sex offender.

"Right now, I'm extremely stressed out, because I have nowhere to go and I don't even have a tent right now," the teen said.

With over 25,000 registered sex offenders, Oregon has the second highest per capita number in the nation.

Oregon State Police are overwhelmed.

They receive about 2,000 sex offender registrations a month, between new registrations and address changes.

"Some of them are no threat at all, and some are high threat. But we don't have any way of knowing that,” said state Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha.

That's what a new law is supposed to change. It was passed last year and went into effect in mid-January.

House Bill 2549 creates a new three-tiered registration system based on an offender's risk and directs more attention to the highest-risk group.

“We're talking about child molesters and serious sex offenders,” said Barker.

“So if someone just sent a picture, they probably shouldn't have to register for life as a sex offender.”

In other states, the 18-year-old would not have faced charges. There are a lot of so called “Romeo and Juliet” laws, where two teens can be in a sexual relationship, as long as they’re not more than five years apart.

Age of consent laws vary also from state to state. In Oregon, it is 18 years. However, the age of consent in 30 other states is 16, and in some it’s 17.

Whatever the specifics, experts warn teenagers to stay away from sexting all together.

"Young people should be very concerned about those type of activities," said Thomas Spear, senior attorney at DeKalb and Associates. "There are many laws they could be violating, and they run tremendous risk to have to register as a sex offender for at least 10 years.”

It's a valuable message this teen wish he'd heard before he sent that fateful picture.

"I would have never let it get to that point, if I would have known what would have happened to me today,” the local teen said.

Under terms of his probation, the teen is not allowed to use the Internet, making his job search that much harder.

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