Teenager’s arrest for sexting leads to conflict over First Amendment

Girl facing 10 years in jail for sexting selfie

A teenage girl has been arrested for sending a sexually explicit photo to a boy at her school and could now could face a lifetime on the sex offender register.

Prosecutors claim the sexting selfie was a violation of Minnesota’s child pornography laws where the distribution of sexual images of underage subjects is banned.

But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has stepped in saying it is absurd that a teenager can be charged for consensually taking an explicit selfie and sending it to someone she knew.

The girl has been charged with ‘felony sex offense of knowingly disseminating pornographic work involving a minor to another person,’ a charge usually aimed at adults and carries a potential 10-year prison sentence.

But as the teenager herself said: “I’m not a criminal for taking a selfie. Sexting is common among teens at my school, and we shouldn’t face charges for doing it. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’m going through.”

Is it normal

As all parents will know this Snapchat-age has thrown up new issues over acceptable behaviour by their teenagers. Sexting can be viewed as simply a new twist on the timeless desire of teenagers to engage in sexual expression.

Originally child pornography laws were designed to protect children from adult predators but at the time did not address issues such as sexting. Because of this the law now criminalises both consensual and non-consensual sexting where the person was under the age of 18.

In effect, the law cannot distinguish between potential harassment victims and consensual sexting in a relationship.

For example, an under-age person sends an explicit photo to a partner but after a break-up the partner distributes that photo among others.

Under the law both are, unfortunately viewed as guilty, as are those who viewed the selfie.

The unwarranted outcome of this legal blind spot is that in America there is now a sex offender register populated with the children it set out to protect and there will be a generation of teenagers becoming adults as convicted sex offenders.

MAIN IMAGE: Patrik Nygren/CC BY-SA 2.0


A veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.
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