It's good to see more states in the country moving quickly to clearly define laws that govern sexting by teenagers.
The need for such laws became clear last year when an overenthusiastic District Atty. in Pennsylvania threatened a group of high school girls who had sent nude images of themselves on their cell phones to male schoolmates, with criminal action. That case received wide national and international attention, and clearly stressed the need for strong laws that would prevent minors who engage in sexting, from being branded as criminals.
In the Pennsylvania case, school authorities found the nude pictures on the girls’ cell phones. What they should have done was turn these over to the parents of the girls. Instead, school authorities turned the cell phones over to the DA’s office. The DA threatened the girls with criminal action unless they agreed to participate in an education program, supposedly to teach them about the dangers of such practices.
The girls did not bow down to threats, and took the matter to court. They were rewarded when a Pennsylvania court threw out the attempt to bring criminal charges against girls. This month, one of the girls involved in that case filed a lawsuit against the school district, claiming that nude images were taken from her cell phone and handed over to prosecutors without her permission.
Now, the state of Ohio has passed a law that bans criminal charges from being brought against minors when they are found sexting. Under the law, minors are prohibited from using electronic communication devices to send sexually explicit material to others, but if they are caught violating the law, they will not be branded sexual offenders.
Teenagers in New Jersey too have been victims of such insane shenanigans by prosecutors. Last year, New Jersey criminal defense lawyers were shocked at the arrest of a 14-year-old New Jersey girl, who posted dozens of nude pictures of herself on her MySpace account. She only wanted her boyfriend to see them. That explanation wasn't enough for the local prosecutor, who immediately arrested the girl. She now faces charges of possession and distribution of child pornography.
If a child in NJ faces charges connected with sexting, it is important to engage quickly the services of a New Jersey criminal defense attorney. Whether or not parents think that these are issues that should be handled by the families of the children concerned, once the legal system is engaged, they need to protect their children’s rights.