ACLU says legislators should clarify state law to ensure that teen sexting does not result in criminal chargesVirginia– The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia announced today that all charges have been dropped against a boy charged with possession of child pornography after he received nude photos on his cell phone from a girl who attended school with him.
The boy, who was 14 years old when the incident occurred, had not shown the photos to anyone else when the principal of his school learned of the photos and contacted the local police, who then brought child pornography charges. Possession of child pornography is a class 6 felony in Virginia.
The ACLU of Virginia, which provided legal representation for the boy, called on Virginia’s legislators to address the issue of sexting by minors by making certain that such behavior does not result in criminal charges. The Virginia Crime Commission, which meets twice more before the end of this year, has failed to reach any conclusion about sexting in the past.
“Sexting between teens is a mistake, not a crime” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Schools and parents should be educating children about the consequences of sexting and even meting out appropriate punishment when it is called for, but a teen convicted of possession of child pornography could spend his life labeled as a criminal sex offender.”
Patrick Anderson, the lawyer who represented the boy for the ACLU of Virginia, said, “This was an unconscionable application of the child pornography statue. That law was intended to protect children from adults who could prey on them, not make criminals of kids who make stupid mistakes.”
“Everyone agrees that the child pornography laws were not intended to apply to teens who take nude pictures of themselves,” added Willis. “But no elected official wants to sponsor a bill that might be misinterpreted by the public as supporting sexting. What’s left is a legislative impasse that places teens dangerously in the path of overzealous police and prosecutors.”
Note: The ACLU of Virginia has chosen not to reveal any additional information about the sexting prosecution discussed in this news release in order to protect the identity of the individual involved.
CONTACT: Kent Willis, (804) 644-8022