American teenagers are increasingly facing prosecution as sex offenders as a result of the rapidly spreading practice of sending explicit photos of themselves by mobile phone — a trend known as sexting.
In the latest case, three teenage girls in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, who sent nude self portraits, and the three male classmates who received the images, have all been served with child pornography charges.
The girls have been charged with manufacturing and disseminating child pornography while the boys are accused of possessing it.
In Wisconsin, a 17-year-old was charged with child pornography after posting naked pictures of his girlfriend, who is a year younger, on the internet. In Rochester, New York, a boy aged 16 faces seven years in jail for circulating an image of a
girlfriend to friends.
"Sexting" is fast becoming a moral and legal headache for school heads and police throughout America. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy last month published a study suggesting one in five teens had sent or
posted images of themselves in various stages of undress.
Jim Brown, an official at Glen Este high school in the Ohio town of Cincinnati, told the Cincinnati Enquirer: If I were to go through the cell phones in this building right now, of 1,500 students I would venture to say that half to two- thirds
have indecent photos, either of themselves or somebody else in school.
Prosecutors are facing increasing dilemmas because case law has not kept up with the impact of digital media on teenage behaviour. Young adults can face lengthy sentences resulting from relationships with younger teenagers, with penalties varying
state by state.
Federal law also requires hefty punishment for teenaged relationships that span the legal start of adulthood at 17. An 18-year-old in their last year of high school who dates a 14-year-old in the first year faces up to 30 years in jail for a
In 2007, a pair of 13-year-old Pennsylvania girls decided to strip down to their skivvies to beat the heat. As Marissa Miller talked on the phone and Grace Kelly flashed a peace sign, a third girl took a candid shot of the teens in their white
It was harmless, innocent fun, the teens say. But the picture somehow wound up on classmates' cell phones, and a prosecutor has threatened to charge Miller and Kelly with child pornography or open lewdness unless they participate in a five-week
after-school program followed by probation.
On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge to block Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. from filing charges, saying that the teens didn't consent to having the picture distributed and that the image
is not pornography, in any event.
The photos surfaced in October, when officials at Tunkhannock Area High School confiscated five cell phones and found that boys had been trading photos of scantily clad, semi-nude or nude teenage girls. The students with the cell phones ranged in
age from 11 to 17.
Called "sexting" when it's done by cell phone, teenagers' habit of sending sexually suggestive photos of themselves and others to one another is a nationwide problem that has confounded parents, school administrators and law enforcement
A hearing on the ACLU's request for a temporary restraining order is scheduled for Thursday in Scranton.
Skumanick said he would fight the lawsuit. He spewed: Frankly, we just wanted to protect these kids, and say, 'Doing this is not right.' We wanted to offer this course to educate them, and make them understand the long-term ramifications of
having photos like this out there.
Under Pennsylvania's child pornography law, it's a felony to possess or disseminate photos of a minor engaged in sexual activity, lewd exhibition of the genitals, or nudity that is meant to titillate. Open lewdness, a misdemeanour,
includes any lewd act that is likely to be observed by others.
U.S. District Judge James Munley has issued a temporary restraining order against Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. to prevent him from filing child porn charges against three girls who "sexted" sexy photos of
themselves to friends.
The Plaintiffs make a reasonable argument that the images presented to the court do not appear to qualify in any way as depictions of prohibited sexual acts, Munley wrote in an Order issued earlier today: Even if they were such
depictions, the plaintiffs' argument that [they] were not involved in disseminating the images is also a reasonable one.
At a hearing, Judge Munley questioned the basis for Skumanick's threat: It seems like the children seemed to be the victims and the perpetrators here, the judge remarked to A. James Hailstone, Skumanick's lawyer: How does that make
Hailstone sidestepped the contradiction, responding that state law doesn't distinguish between who took the picture and who was in it.
A further hearing on the case will be held June 2.
14-year-old charged with child porn for posting nude pictures of herself
A 14-year-old New Jersey girl has been accused of child pornography after posting nearly 30 explicit nude pictures of herself on MySpace.com -- charges that could force her to register as a sex offender if convicted.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tipped off a state task force, which alerted the Passaic County Sheriff's Office. The office investigated for a month and discovered the Clifton resident had posted the very explicit photos of herself, sheriff's spokesman Bill Maer said Thursday.
It is not a crime to view the photos, Maer said, but it is illegal to download them. Authorities are looking at additional arrests but have no plans to charge people who accidentally viewed the photographs, such as any of friends who have access
to the girl's profile.
The teen, whose name has not been released because of her age, was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography and distribution of child pornography. She was released to her mother's custody. If convicted of the distribution charge,
the girl would be forced to register with the state as a sex offender under Megan's Law, said state Attorney General Anne Milgram.
Maureen Kanka -- whose daughter, Megan, became the law's namesake blasted authorities for charging the 14-year-old girl. The teen needs help, not legal trouble, she said. This shouldn't fall under Megan's Law in any way, shape or form. She
should have an intervention and counseling, because the only person she exploited was herself. The teens are making poor choices by posting nude images but aren't pedophiles, she said.
The Vermont Legislature is considering a bill that would legalize sexting between teenagers.
Under current laws, participants can be charged with child pornography, but lawmakers are considering a bill to legalize the consensual exchange of graphic images between two people 13 to 18 years old. Passing along such images to others would
remain a crime.
Supporters told the Burlington Free Press they don't want to condone the behavior, but they don't think teenagers should be prosecuted as sex offenders for consensual conduct.
The bill passed the state Senate earlier this month. The House Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on it this week.
Australian children engaged in sexting could be charged with child sex offences under laws set to pass federal parliament.
However, the attorney-general will have 'discretion' [as if politicians know the meaning of the word discretion] as to whether people under 18 are charged with child sex offences for sending sexual material via
their mobile phone.
The federal government has accepted the recommendation of a parliamentary committee into the proposed Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences Against Children) Bill 2010 which means a young person cannot be prosecuted for sexting without
the consent of the attorney-general.
The committee is of the view that the extension of this safeguard may ensure that behaviour which is not exploitative of, or harmful to, children is not captured by the child sex offence regime, particularly where that behaviour involves
children themselves, the committee said in a report tabled in the Senate.
A US federal appeals court rebuked a Pennsylvania district attorney who threatened to file felony child pornography charges against teens who were photographed semi-nude unless they attended an education program.
In a unanimous decision issued by the appeals court in Philadelphia, a three-judge panel said the threat amounted to a Hobson's Choice that would retaliate against one of the girls and her family for exercising their constitutional right
to free speech. A rare dose of government-issued sanity in the prosecutorial crusade against teenage sexting , the ruling upheld a lower-court order issued last year in the case.
The case stems from inappropriate images of minors found by officials at Pennsylvania's Tunkhannock School District, that included, among other things, a girl posing in her bathing suit. In late 2008, Wyoming County District Attorney
George Skumanick told an assembly of about 20 students and their parents he would bring felony child pornography charges against them unless they completed a six- to nine-month program. For female offenders, that meant attending classes designed
to help the participants gain an understanding of what it means to be a girl in today's society, and require them to write a report on what the students did and why it was wrong.
The panel from the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said the education program requirement amounted to compelled speech, in violation of the Constitution's First Amendment. As such, Skumanick's threat to prosecute was retaliation.
Contrary to the recommendation of a recent government report advising against prosecuting teens for sexting, a Pennsylvania district attorney is doing just that with a group of teens from Susquenita High School. The age of teens in question range
from 13 to 17. Perry County District Attorney Charles Chenot says he wants to teach them a lesson they will not soon forget.
Take a photograph of yourself or somebody else nude and send it to somebody else, you've committed the crime, he said. The teens have been charged with felonies related to sending child porn via the internet. Chenot has previously
prosecuted two sexting cases within the past year that involved a total of ten minors.
According to CBSnews, The teens at Susquenita High, who all knew each other, were accused last fall of using their cell phones to take, send, or receive nude photos of each other and in one case a short video of oral sex. That resulted in a
felony pornography charge for each minor.
Chenot said the charges fit the crime, adding that a lesser alternative was not available to him.
A Harrisburg civil rights attorney and former U.S. representative, Don Bailey, who is representing one of the children, questions leveling any charges against the teens.
Should they be crimes at all? he asked, rhetorically, before answering the question himself. This is an overzealous and inappropriate application of the criminal law.
Why should we criminalize a kid for taking and possessing a photo of herself? said Marsha Levick, legal director of the non-profit Juvenile Law Center. There is no problem that needs to be solved.
A senior Victorian magistrate who presided over a case in which a youth pleaded guilty to teenage sexting offences has condemned as so unjust the mandatory laws that meant the young man was registered as a sex offender.
The magistrate said the lack of judicial discretion in such cases meant severe consequences for young people who posed no threat to society and were often guilty of little more than naivety.
He presided over the case of the country youth, then aged 18, who was sent four uninvited text message pictures of girls, aged between 15 and 17 years, topless or in their underwear. Police found the pictures on his mobile phone and laptop and
charged him with child pornography offences.
On legal advice the youth pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a one-year good behaviour bond without conviction. The magistrate refused the prosecutor's application for the young man to be placed on the sex offender register but police later
realised his guilty plea resulted in mandatory registration for eight years. Magistrates have discretion for those aged under 18, but none for adults.
The magistrate said:
These people shouldn't be regarded as sex offenders. It's going beyond the pale in relation to the imposition of long-term penalties which are not judicial penalties, they're not fines or community-based orders or even sex
offender treatment programs. This is a limitation on what a person can and can't do for the next eight years of their life, for God's sake.
The parties are no danger to the community, they're no danger to kids, it's an exercise in many cases in naivety, not even quite stupidity, just naivety.
[Offenders] have a minimal amount of culpability attached to them and a minimal amount of danger to any other person in the community. That's when it becomes so unjust.
He called for magistrates and judges to be given discretion over who ought to be listed as a sex offender.
Under Commonwealth law, teenagers under age 18 who consensually photograph and send images of their own bodies in nude, sexualised poses can be charged with production and distribution of child pornography. Anyone to
whom they send those images can be charged with possession of child pornography, even if the sender of the image intended for them to have it.
In NSW the age of consent is 16. This means a 17-year-old girl can legally have sex with her boyfriend (or girlfriend) but if she films it, or if she photographs her own breasts and sends that image to her partner, she can
be prosecuted under Commonwealth law. Understandably teenagers find it difficult to comprehend this legal inconsistency and there are some serious questions to be raised.
Authorities say 16 and 17 year old girls have been charged with sending nude pictures of themselves to an Iowa man who's been charged for possessing the photos.
The girls have been charged as adults with felony exploitation of a minor. Online court records say 19-year-old Alex Case is charged with sexual exploitation of a minor.
Buena Vista County Sheriff Gary Launderville says that under Iowa law, it's a felony to send such images and a misdemeanor to possess them. Launderville says that makes the girls both victims and defendants.