The Legislature is considering updating the state's child pornography laws to shield minors who trade exposed shots of themselves with peers, a legal distinction Gov. Baker and prosecutors say is necessary.

Under Baker's bill, instead of being charged with the felony of child pornography, senders and receivers of consensual but sexually explicit images would be diverted from the juvenile justice system and into education programs.

"Treating juveniles with the presumption of age-appropriate diversion in these instances is a common sense and compassionate approach to this issue," Jennifer Queally, Baker's undersecretary for law enforcement, said at a hearing of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

Prosecutors would have the option to let minors off the hook for a behavior officials, parents and educators want to curb, but mostly agree should not end up with a teen registering as a sex offender.

"Currently, minors can be charged with a felony possession of child pornography for the peer-to-peer distribution of sexually explicit visual material. This charge is often too severe for cases involving minor involved in sexting behavior and is clearly not what lawmakers had intended when they outlawed the distribution of child pornogrphy," Queally said.

Baker announced the bill at Boston Latin Academy back in April, where he said the bill would give prosecutors the option to divert minors into educational programs without saddling them with a record as a sex offender.
"The tools available to district attorneys and law enforcement historically here have been blunt instruments and haven't been able to distinguish between kids making stupid discussions and real intent to cause harm," Baker said in April. 

The bill would also criminalize the distribution of explicit photos of adults that were taken consensually and later spread to others, so-called revenge porn.

The bill would make it illegal to distribute sexually explicit images without the subject's consent.

"Massachusetts law punishes nonconcensual recording of sexual explicit images of unsuspecting people, but the law does not address the instance when an image is taken with the consent and then distributed without the consent with the intent to cause harm to that person," Queally said.