Bill Makes it Illegal to Request Sexually-Charged Images from Minors


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HARTFORD – Responding to a loophole in state statutes, Connecticut legislators have voted unanimously to establish the crime of “Harmful Communication with a Minor.”

Legislators in both parties said Connecticut had no specific law related to individuals who use an interactive computer service or text messages to persuade, induce, entice or coerce a minor to share photographs or recorded images of themselves for the “sexual gratification of the person who requests the image.”

The new law – which takes effect Oct. 1 – also makes it a crime to engage in any communication or behavior designed to form or maintain an inappropriate relationship with a minor, or someone who is 17 years old or younger. Under the bill, the new crime is a Class A misdemeanor and applies to adults 25 years and older. The crime is punishable by up to a year in prison, a $2,000 fine or both.

The State House passed the measure on May 30 and the State Senate approved it on June 7. Gov. Ned Lamont is expected to sign the bill in the next two weeks.

“This bill is so important, specifically in Connecticut, because in a broader sense, it’s a new frontier in how we are communicating with each other,” said State Rep. Mary Welander, D-Orange, who wrote the bill. “As always, there are going to be bad apples and bad actors who take advantage of the fact that our state did not have anything on the books that specifically criminalized this type of intentional behavior.”

In 2015, Connecticut passed a law making it illegal to entice a minor under 16 years of age to engage in prostitution or sexual activity, but it didn’t address the broader issues related to enticing minors that are addressed in the new bill.

Welander originally submitted a bill in 2022 which made such actions a felony, punishable by five to seven years of prison. That measure passed the House unanimously but was never taken up by the Senate.

To ensure the bill’s passage this year, Welander said, the penalty had to be reduced to a Class A misdemeanor and the age of the offender had to be increased from 21 to 25.

Welander said there had been pressure from legislators of both parties, but mainly Democrats, to raise the punishable age to 25. Several representatives thought it unfair to have college-aged students included under the law.  

“Take someone who is 21 and could be in the same college as someone who might not yet be 18, and something happens online,” said State Rep. Michael Quinn, D-Meriden, of his colleagues’ concerns.

Quinn, an attorney and vice chair of the Judiciary Committee, said the bill’s language was carefully reviewed and is in line with similar statutes in other states, making it unlikely to be challenged in court. 

Quinnipiac University Assistant Law Professor Wayne Unger told CT Examiner that the bill is “well researched” and its language defines an inappropriate relationship as one that is “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community.”

“The language is nothing new,” Unger said. “We’ve seen this over and over again, as it’s been well-defined in the law. You can look at the U.S. Supreme Court that talks about what is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community.”

Leaders of both parties say the law also keeps pace with new technologies and social media.

“Social media is so prolific now, as everybody is on social media and kids are on social media at a younger age,” State Sen. Lisa Seminara, R-Avon, said. “I think there are certainly positive qualities to social media, but let’s be frank, there are also some very negative things about social media. It’s not like when I was a kid, because today they are exposed to bullying and cyberbullying online. Kids today have to endure quite a lot. This bill is long overdue in my eyes.”

Welander said there can be lifelong trauma for minors who are exploited. 

Legislators noted it’s too early to know whether the new penalties will be a deterrent, but said they are hopeful that, in time, people might think twice about engaging in such activity.

“I’d like to think it would be a deterrent,” Seminara said. “I would like to think that anybody facing jail time or any kind of financial damages would see this as a deterrent.”

Attorney and State Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, said he believes adults communicating with minors in such a fashion is prevalent in the state.

“It is an issue. I know of individuals in the court system that have expressed the concern that [incidents] have happened,” Fishbein said. “There is widespread recognition that this has been a problem.”

Robert Storace

Robert Storace is a veteran reporter with stints at New Britain Herald, the New Haven Register, the Connecticut Post, Hartford Business Journal and the Connecticut Law Tribune. Storace covers the State Capitol for CT Examiner. T: 203 437 5950