Court Rejects PA DAs Attempt To Charge Teens For Sexting Themselves

from the common-sense-prevails dept

About a year ago a prosecutor in Pennsylvania wanted to bring child porn charges against some teenage girls who had taken some “nude and seminude” photos of themselves with cameraphones and sent them to others. The case was complicated in that after school officials turned over the evidence to the district attorney, the DA’s office told the girls that they could avoid charges if they agreed to a special afterschool “education program.” Some of the girls refused, and the prosecutor tried to charge them. This raised an outcry from many who felt it was ridiculous to charge kids with child pornography for taking photos of themselves. The judges in the case blocked the prosecutor from filing charges, but rather than take the hint, the prosecutor tried again with an appeal.

It looks like that was a dead end too. The appeals court unanimously ruled against the DA and criticized them for their efforts to bring charges against these girls. This case won’t necessarily directly apply to other similar cases — as much of the reasoning had to do with the requirement to take this class and write an essay about why what they did was “wrong,” which was judged to be compelled speech, violating the First Amendment. Furthermore, the fact that the lawsuit was seen as retaliating for not obeying the order to take the class was also problematic. So, it’s likely we’ll still see other cases involving “sexting,” where teenagers are accused of creating child porn of themselves.

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Comments on “Court Rejects PA DAs Attempt To Charge Teens For Sexting Themselves”

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scarr (profile) says:

If the whole philosophy behind child porn, or people being underage in general is that they can’t give consent because they don’t know well enough to make an informed decision, how can anyone claim they should know better than to do this?

The bigger irony is that the kids wouldn’t be able to make decisions in their trials without the consent of a parent or guardian, would they?

DCX2 says:

Re: Re:

Personally, I think the bigger irony is that the goal of this anti-sexting crusade is to “prevent kids from ruining their lives”, but thanks to him, millions of strangers on the Internet know a few teenage girls in Pennsylvania took pictures of themselves naked. It’s like the Streisand effect; nobody knew about these teenagers until that DA filed a lawsuit.

Jamie says:

Re: um...

For values of “legal” that apparently involve DAs waging multi-year battles against you.

You’re pointing out that Verizon, ATT, etc. are not liable for the jihad against young people sending depictions of their own body to others.

Which should be, but apparently isn’t, obvious. Your hypothetical service, on the other hand, would die a very, very quick death, which should be equally obvious.

I wonder if these teens asserted copyright over their images and called it branding, would these asshole DAs shut up and stop interfering with commerce?

Moose (profile) says:

Ok this may be too nitpicky, but I don’t think that “Sexting Themselves” (from the title) is correct in this context. In my understanding “sexting” is the act of sending sexual texts or pictures to someone. So, by that definition, the title would be implying that they were sending nude pictures to themselves. Am I right, or just crazy?

Jamie (profile) says:

Re: Not crazy,

Just pedantic.

It is pretty clear from the context that “sexting themselves” refers to the act of sending nudie pictures which depict the sender to a second party.

It is possible to read the text in the way you do, but that way tends to obstruct conversation, or lead to becoming Scalia (except when he finds it inconvenient).

And, really, who would want to be a well paid, tenured absolute authority with a penchant for applying Catholic doctrine selectively in order to enforce retrograde notions of how people really live?

Oh, wait.

WammerJammer (profile) says:

Sexting themselves!!

Wow talk about privacy. When you are underage you have no rights and definitely no right to privacy. Do you see the word privacy anywhere in the U.S. Constitution? The phone company should be able to offer an absolutely private service if you want to pay for it. But the governments of the world wouldn’t stand for it. The reason we have no privacy is because of the Intelligence Agencies having a stupid need to justify their existence by scanning everyone’s calls and texts. Remember you paid for this! You bought this government that is putting you on trial for being free with your friends. The only place I feel like I am alone anymore is in my old, old car. But who knows.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Sexting themselves!!

Just to be clear, these photos were found when the school seized a male student’s cellphone (for violating an unrelated school policy), and the photos of the girls were on it.

There is arguably a privacy concern there — about whether or not the school has the right to look through cellphones that they confiscate — but this has nothing to do with any sort of electronic snooping or monitoring of calls and texts.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

I think DAs who prosecute those cases need to ask themselves some important questions. If the goal of child-porn laws is the protect children from sexual abuse (a laudable goal I support) then throwing kids in jail for effectively abusing themselves is counter-productive. The kids are their own victims and throwing them in jail will only make them worst-off.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Sexting themselves

you sound like one of the following groups:
1. does not have children
2. has children that are under the age of 15.
3. has one or more children aged 15 or older and you were COMPLETELY ignorant of the stuff your kid did/does.

being a parent of 2 teen aged boys im sure i am not the only one that can tell you that its not always a matter of not being a parent. and in this case it would appear that the only real parents involved are the ones saying they will not allow their kids to be forced into a “special class” to educate them.
i have excellent parents that were involved, cared about what i did and did a LOT of volunteer time for stuff that i was involved in for high school… and big surprise here… they had no idea of some of the stuff i was doing then.
and my kids try to do the same thing. them trying to get away with stuff and me setting limits and catching them is the natural evolution from childhood to adulthood where they are trying to expand their boundries as they grow up.
and you toss in the rampant idiocy that hormones creates in teenagers with easily accessible technology and im sorry, you are dumb to expect anything other than a situation like this.
personally, i take my kids cell right out of his hands right in front of him on a 1-2week basis and its always spur of the moment and i go through what he has on his phone. THATS how you do it right.

i applaud those parents who refused to let their kids take this class and to the others that let their kids go to this special class i say its time you stopped letting the government be the parent of your kids. you are the reason this country is slowly becoming a giant all around failure and your spawn will most likely make sure that job gets finished.

Anonymous Coward says:

About a year ago a prosecutor in Pennsylvania wanted to bring child porn charges against some teenage girls who had taken some “nude and seminude” photos of themselves with cameraphones and sent them to others. The case was complicated in that after school officials turned over the evidence to the district attorney, the DA’s office told the girls that they could avoid charges if they agreed to a special afterschool “education program”…


This really sounds like the screenplay for a bad porno flick.

Maybe the DA planned to take advantage of them…I mean he already knew that they’re sluts…

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