August 21, 2010

Do Teenage Sexting Laws Criminalize Constitutionally Protected Activities?

8-21-2010 Michigan:

As Michigan teenagers prepare to go back to school, parents, school administrators, and even some local officials are putting out the message about the dangers of sexting and the possibility of racy photos being passed around from student to student. Further, across the country, several states are considering enacting laws prohibiting sexting between minors. Despite the real dangers of teenage sexting and the possibility of photos reaching unintended sources, criminalizing this behavior is unnecessary. While advocates of sexting laws argue that making teenage sexting illegal is necessary to protect children from exploitation, opponents disagree, arguing that criminalization violates freedom of expression and privacy rights.

The director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, one state considering criminalization explains, "So in the scenario where a teenage couple is sharing pictures with each other, and they involve only nudity, not sex acts, they can be charged. Teaching kids about their sexuality is the job that belong to parents and educators, not prosecutors."

Much of the debate arose out of Miller v. Skulniak, a 3rd Circuit barring prosecutors from filing charges against a Pennsylvania teen.

In Michigan, sexting remains a felony, stemming from child pornography laws. Thus, a teenager who sends photos of himself or herself to a girlfriend or boyfriend may be charged with distribution of child pornography, a charge with significant lifelong consequences.

Such harsh consequences are disproportionate to an act that is often innocent and commonplace between teens. ..Source.. A. Scott Grabel

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Although I'm not a huge fan of the ACLU, I have to agree with them on this one. These laws MAY be well intended but it is obvious that they are ill thought out. To hold teens who send a racy photo to each other via texting cannot and does not warrant them to be felony convicts (for life) and splattered on sex offender registries. The registry simply was not designed for cases such as this. At worst, the teens should be provided with some sort of diversion program to show the negative consequences of the act such as the possibility of the images being sent or intercepted by third parties and redistributed over and again. In other words, educate them and their parents as to why this practice could be dangerous in the long run. Of course that makes sense so therefore the powers that be aren't likely to realize the prudence of alternatives, like the one suggested above. I am convinced lawmakers do NOT live in the real world with the rest of us.