Juveniles convicted in sexting cases don’t always go to jail

There are alternatives to incarceration for juveniles convicted of crimes that involve sexting, the Montgomery County Juvenile Court administrator said.

"Many times, it's one of poor judgment really than it is to any malicious behaviors," court Administrator Jim Cole told News Center 7's James Buechele on Tuesday.

RELATED: Criminal charges pursued against teen in Vandalia sexting case

Cole said there are serious consequences to charges such as sending material harmful to juveniles.

That's one of the charges Union police detectives are pressing for a 16-year-old girl who admittedly sent photos and a video of her -- nude and engaged in a sexual act -- to as many as five Vandalia Butler School District students.

Cole said, "If convicted, you could actually be looking at a commitment to a state institution as well as register in some capacity with the sexual offender registry."

The prosecutor's office since 2009 has created a diversion program for cases such as the Vandalia Butler case. The program is available to defendants “unless there is some element of maliciousness or extortion, some type of threat of violence,” he said.

Cole said there have been since 2009 nearly 270 referrals to the program and 260 have successfully completed the program.

"What this allows is both the court and the juvenile to avoid an official record but there's very stringent requirements," he said.

The defendant must admit guilt, give up their cell phone for six months and not use or possess a phone for the duration of the program.

Pending in the state legislature is Ohio House Bill 355, which would require all juvenile courts to offer diversion programs.

RELATED: Ohio House mulled law to set up diversion programs

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