Ohio Legislator Wants To Criminalize Kids Taking Nude Pics Of Themselves

from the too-much-free-time dept

The uproar over “sexting” — kids taking nude pictures of themselves and sending them with their cameraphones — is in full swing, with lots of politicians looking to wring some publicity out of it. In our earlier post about the Pennsylvania prosecutor who threatened to bring child-porn charges against some kids for taking their own pictures, Steve L left a comment noting that a politician in Ohio plans to introduce legislation that would make sexting a misdemeanor offense. He says he wants to criminalize the activity to protect kids from the “extra burden” of being charged with felony sex offenses. It’s bizarre, though, as he says that teen sexters “did something stupid, but I don’t think anyone wants for them to be called sex offenders,” and “I think what these teens need is education about how this type of behavior could affect their lives.” So the way to educate them is to make them criminals?

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Comments on “Ohio Legislator Wants To Criminalize Kids Taking Nude Pics Of Themselves”

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Ima Fish (profile) says:

So the way to educate them is to make them criminals?

I’ll say it again, if a person under the age of 18 is taking and distributing sexual pictures of him or herself, he or she is committing a criminal act. This law does not make them criminals. They are ready are criminals under the law.

Once again, there is absolutely no exemption under our child pornography laws for people who take and distribute pictures of themselves.

Once again, the law sees no distinction between a 40 year old man taking and distributing nude pictures of his 13 year old daughter and the daughter taking and distributing pictures of herself.

And you completely miss the entire point of this legislation. Instead of charging them with felonies, which could be done as they did commit felonies, he wants to be able to charge them with a much lessor crime. A mere misdemeanor offense. He wants to let the kids have a second chance rather than risk them being charged and convicted of felonies. That’s a good thing!

I’ll just say this, I’m not arguing for or against the child porn laws we have in this country. All I’m saying is that as they currently exist, there is no exception under the law for creating your own child porn and distributing it yourself.

Jim says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ima has a point though and he is not being acknowledged. I know I used it about a week ago, but I’ll use the same quote again:

“Let me not be understood as saying that there are no bad laws, nor that grievances may not arise for the redress of which no legal provisions have been made. I mean to say no such thing. But I do mean to say that although bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible, still, while they continue in force, for the sake of example they should be religiously observed.”
Abraham Lincoln

Adam (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why not just make all texting illegal? That’d solve the problem. If these teens were painting nude pictures of themselves it would be art. If they took a picture of their hypothetical painting and sent it to a friend, would it still be child pornography? We should be drawing the line at prosecuting victimless crimes. I can’t believe the “justice” system is wasting our tax money prosecuting things like this. America’s sexual hypocrisy is staggering!

C.T. says:

Perhaps you should read the article again, Carlo. I do not mean to be snide, but it appears that you’ve missed the entire point of the proposed legislation. As the laws are currently written in OH, teens who engage in “sexting” meet the requirements for being charged with a felony. This proposed legislation would make clear to courts that they should not be applying the felony statutes in cases involving teen “sexting.”

While the logic in the legislator’s approach is questionable(one would think that the felony statutes could be amended to reflect their inapplicability to teen “sexting”), it is most certainly clear that the intent of the statute is not to “criminalize” the act.

Weird Harold's former #5 fan says:

He says he wants to criminalize the activity

Ok, I need to call a foul here. That sentence makes it sound like he wants to take an activity that is currently completely legal and make it illegal.

Here’s what he actually said:

Maag said with the current law teens could be charged with a felony and forced to register as sex offenders, which he felt was an “extra burden” they didn’t need.

Now, whether the activity should be legal or not is a legitimate discussion, but please don’t twist his words to make them say something they don’t

Anonymous Coward says:

If they are going to go this route, they should also give them some kind of option to take some class dealing with the dangers/consequences of this behavior and expunge their record once completed. Maybe a little community service would be an appropriate sentence if they feel the need to punish these kids but anything harsher would just be ridiculous.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re:

they should also give them some kind of option to take some class dealing with the dangers/consequences of this behavior

A prosecutor tried to do that and the ACLU is suing him for his kindness.

but anything harsher would just be ridiculous

That’s exactly what the legislator wants to do. Rather than charge them with felonies, he wants to charge them with misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are much less serious than felonies and are basically a step above a traffic ticket. I simply cannot understand why Carlo thinks the option of charging kids with a lessor crime is a bad thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“A prosecutor tried to do that and the ACLU is suing him for his kindness.”

Yes, his intentions seem good but he is just adding another law which gives the prosecuter the OPTION to charge the kid with the lessor crime. It wouldn’t change the existing law so another prosecutor could go for the higher charge. This additional crime actually gives the prosecutor more leverage in trying to get a plea bargin.

Between this, illegal downloading, cyberbulling, and whatever other questionable online activies that kids get involved with these days, it seems just about any kid with a computer is a criminal by someone’s definition. We should just turn schools into prisions and problem solved (sarcasm).

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re:

Under the current law a 17 year 11 month old person who takes a picture of themselves naked is committing a felony. A felony that comes with the punishment of being labeled a sex offender. A punishment that douse not go away and can fuck up someones life.

What this guy is trying to do is make it so he can punish the person who is doing it but to a much lesser extent. This way they can be educated but not labeled a sex offender for life.

That is why we can’t use the current law.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I can see where Carlo is coming from. These children need educated in these matters. The parents need to sit down with them and teach them the consequences of their action. Charging someone for doing something that they don’t see as a bad thing won’t educate anyone vary well (look at the RIAA’s education plan).

I still like this addition. States are allowed to add on to federal laws and this sounds like a good add.

mobiGeek says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

How, precisely, is the act of sending a nude photo of yourself “bad”, in need of a government-mandated and enforced education program?

If the person taking the picture and the person receiving the picture are consenting individuals, then where is the foul?

Where is the *bad* here?

I’m not talking about the evil corners that could happen (exploitation), but to assume that any and all instances of this action require “correction” is simply wrong-headed. In fact, it will work against society in the long run.

BTR1701 says:

Re: Jurisdiction

> USC 18, 2251, 2252, and 2256 (and I think 1142) make it
> all pretty much illegal to start with. There is no need to
> jump through another hoop or create yet another law –
> just apply what is there already.

Those are federal statutes. This is state law. Two different jurisdictions. You were corrected once on this matter already in the comments to the other article on this topic (after which you suddenly disappeared).

Also, based on current Supreme Court precedent, which has held that mere nudity alone is not pornography and cannot be outlawed, many (if not all) of those statutes you’re so fond of citing are ripe for challenge and constitutional invalidation.

Beta says:

The artile isn’t clear, but it seems to suggest that the proposed legislation would not amend the existing law, so it would still be a felony. But it would also be a misdemeanor. Only a politician would say that this “clarifies” the law.

Maybe in the murky dynamics of legal proceedings this reduces a teen’s chance of being charged with a felony (while perhaps also increasing the chance of being charged at all) but it certainly follows the usual pattern: pass new laws, never repeal old ones, and don’t do anything that even a true moron could be convinced is “going easy on child molesters”.

noah says:

'cmon Carlo

“So the way to educate them is to make them criminals?”

How does charging them with a misdemeanor “make them criminals”? Everyone with a traffic violation is a criminal by your definition. Job applications don’t ask “Have you ever been convicted of a felony, or of sexting?” This is an attempt to make sexting not a big deal, but that wouldn’t be a good headline would it? “Ohio Legislator proposes sane punishment for kids doing stupid things”

getagripe says:

County jail prepares to expand... news...

I talked to a friend of mine that develops photos for a living. He is absolutely appalled that he’s allowed so many felons slip thru his fingers. But don’t you worry guys, he’s on the case. After leafing thru his piles of negatives, he’s figured about 30 to 40 percent of his workload is from parents taking pics of their kids, and of that a good 25 percent of those, they are not wearing shirts, and in some cases “gasp” are naked. He’s busy right now turning parents into felons so he can’t actually post this himself, but if he could, I’m sure he would want you guys to rest assured this won’t be tolerated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: County jail prepares to expand... news...

Finally someone begins to hint at the root of the problem. Sexuality is not physical, it’s psychological.

Take for example the ever infamous painting “David.” You can either say it’s a beautiful work of art, or run around yelling “PENIS!!!!!”

The kids are simply exploring their sexuality, which is a normal and healthy thing to do once the body reaches puberty. In all manner of speaking the human body is fully capable of engaging in sex and the reproductive process by an adolescents teenage years. In the 1700’s 13yr olds would be married and have a kid 9months later, they’re completely capable of inheriting the entire scope of the family dynamic, industrialized society today just doesn’t prepare them for it as quickly as we once used to.

Criminalizing the activity is absurd, and entirely illogical. However, more to the point is why these minors are being charged at all when their parents are the ones who are legally responsible for them. If you won’t give the minors any other legal representation other than on behalf of the parents then it is the parents who are the ones who should be charged with the crime, just like when a child decides of their own volition to stop going to school.

Inherently this law is saying love is a criminal act, and consent is invalid.

If you don’t want your kid texting nude images of themselves, THEN DONT BUY THEM A FUCKING PHONE, better yet… BE AN INVOLVED PARENT. Even better? Quit asking the taxpayers to solve YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM.


Kevin says:

This isn’t about criminalizing the behavior. It’s about giving prosecutors a less severe option for prosecution. Under current law it is perfectly legal for two 16-year olds to have sex. But if one of them takes a nude picture of themself and sends it to the other, they will have committed a felony offense that is punishable with jail time and forced registration as a sex offender for life.

This new legislation is about taking a common sense approach. It says that these kids aren’t felons and shouldn’t be treated as sex offenders. Instead it treats the behavior as a misdemeanor offense that can be sealed with the juvenile record rather than branding the kid for life. It’s about providing a safety net to protect the kids from the disproportionate legal ramifications of their actions.

And Weird Harold, you can go on about US law all you want, but this is not the exclusive jurisdiction of US law. Typically Federal law would apply in interstate cases or cases where US Government services (aka, the US Postal Service) are used/involved. Like it or not, states still have jurisdiction in the vast majority of these cases. Otherwise the kids in PA would be under federal indictment, which they’re not. It’s the local prosecutor who threatened to bring the charges, and the local (usually county) prosecutors have no authority to bring federal charges.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Maybe is a few states two 16 year olds can legally have sex, but in most states the age of legal consent is 17. There are a few where it is lower than 16, but not many. in those states with a legal consent age higher than 16, your scenario would be called statutory rape, regardless of whether or not there was consent.

Jesse says:

Ima Fish

It doesn’t really matter what the law says. This isn’t a forum for lawyers. Considering how this article is talking about changing the law anyways, why not just decriminalize taking pictures of yourself? Why not add that exemption you so fervently insist doesn’t currently exist? The law isn’t so static that once something has been legislated it can never be changed again.

The point is look at the purpose of the law. I am having a hard time coming up with any instance where charging the supposed victim makes sense.

arrgster says:

don't understand

I think a little common sense should be held by the courts on this. seriously, why would it be illegal for a teen to take a picture of themselves, not that I’m saying it’s a good idea but come on, that’s just ridiculous!

I find it interesting how this society likes to sick it’s head in the sand and or forget what it was like to be a teen. I remember being a teen and we got it on all the time LOL.

I find it hard to believe the rest of the yahoo’s making these laws didn’t do the same thing when they were teens. Matter of fact maybe they should think back and consider what might of happened if they had been charged with something like this.

If my teenager took a pic and sent it to her boyfriend and I found out, I would call her a dumb ass, ground her and take the phone away. Not give her a criminal record for being a dumb horny teenager.

Anonymous Coward says:

What a bunch of tools. Most of you have no clue. The guy is trying to put on the books something that will help out teens, not hurt them.

On another funny law note, in most states, you can have sex with a 16 or 17 year old girl and you break no law. You can play hide the monkey with her all night long and the law won’t bother you, but if she send you a nude picture of herself, well, now you are a child pornographer. Isn’t that nice? You can do her but you can’t have pictures of her. Age of consent is lower than the child porno laws allow.

Lonzo (profile) says:

Utter retardation

The whole approach to this so far has been the absolute pinnacle of stupidity. These are teenagers (for the love of God), whose lives are being deliberately and wrongfully destroyed by these laws which very loosely apply to them. The fact of their having to register as sex offenders is insulting to me in so many respects. It insults our collective intelligence, the very fabric of justice and the concept of logic itself. The only reason I’m forced to take this seriously is because it’s not Comedy Central; it’s not Ren and Stimpy– it’s real, and it makes me sick. I don’t know all the facts, but I’m sure this sort of abuse of authority costs unwarranted mounds of cash, which people apparently still think is easy to come by. It effectively ends these young peoples’ lives by enforcing useless and damaging loopholes in laws which were originally written for a perfectly valid purpose. I don’t want to see any pictures of underage kids, and I don’t think they should be floating around at all, but I don’t think “sexting” is a particularly horrendous offense. I agree with making it a misdemeanor and I hope they can pass this law in every state before yet more people have their lives bulldozed by our deflated justice system.

Ryan says:

Pretty Appalling

I find it amazing how many posters don’t seem to have a problem with this law just because the suggested punishment for the misdemeanor is less than the potential punishment in the status quo. Punishing kids for allegedly exploiting themselves is wrong six ways to Sunday.

Say a DA decides to charge a 14-year-old with child molestation because he/she masturbated in private. Are all of you gonna go on record saying it would be a good idea to get a law on the books stating that masturbation is only a misdemeanor, so that we can give DAs a lesser option than the felony? Here’s a better idea: any photography that is self-produced is not child porn. The entire “protect the children” witch hunt against any potential sex offenses makes me ashamed to be human.

“You know Danny, I’ve sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn’t want to do it…but I felt I owed it to them.”
– Judge Smails, Caddyshack

Jesse says:

Seriously, to those of you who think this law makes sense: please never have children. If you do all ready, then may God help their poor souls. You people keep defending it saying that is what is written in the law. Even if that is true, do you honestly think that prosecuting these children is the right way to approach the situation? Do you think masturbation should count as child molestation? What about undressing before a bath; should that be “exposing yourself to a minor?”

Are you even using your brains, or have you just been stuck on autopilot too long that you can’t turn it off?

Rekrul says:

Every time I read an article on this subject, the point is always made (in the article itself and in the comments) that teens do “stupid” things and they have to be educated about all the “negative consequences” of actions such as taking nude photos of yourself.

This completely ignores the fact that all these “negative consequences” are the artificial result of America’s prudish attitudes;

They could be denied a future job – Because Americans see nudity as shameful and embarassing, so someone who posed for nude photos could be seen as embarassing the company.

A future relationship could be ruined by their partner seeing the photos – Because Americans see nudity as shameful and embarrasing, so potential mates wouldn’t want someone who could embarass them.

They could become the object of desire for predators – Because in America, nudity automatically equals SEX!!!

Maybe if nudity wasn’t such a big deal, these girls wouldn’t bother. Maybe if America wasn’t collectively embarassed by anything even remotely connected to sex, and absolutely horrified at the though of teenagers having sexual feelings, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:


If Michelangelo or some other famous painter (or even a contemporary “conventional” painter (I suppose meaning oil or acrylic, maybe charcoal) did this, or even Ansel Adams (with an expensive camera), it would be “art”, and very praise-worthy.
When a budding young “Michelangelo” or “Ansel Adams” does it, it is stupid and maybe criminal.
Go figure – “Beam me up, Scotty, there is no intelligent life here”.

Anonymous Coward says:

“They could become the object of desire for predators – Because in America, nudity automatically equals SEX!!!

Maybe if nudity wasn’t such a big deal, these girls wouldn’t bother. Maybe if America wasn’t collectively embarassed by anything even remotely connected to sex, and absolutely horrified at the though of teenagers having sexual feelings, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Strange how nobody is asking why. What effect do current media streams have on the development of societal values and personal limits?

redrum says:

I’ll say it again, if a person under the age of 18 is taking and distributing sexual pictures of him or herself, he or she is committing a criminal act. This law does not make them criminals. They are ready are criminals under the law.

Once again, there is absolutely no exemption under our child pornography laws for people who take and distribute pictures of themselves.


Not true. The constitution guarantees freedom of expression along with freedom of speech in the first amendment. One is certainly allowed to express themselves, even if nude.

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