Do Teenage Sexting Laws Criminalize Constitutionally Protected Activities?

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.

For more information, or if you or someone you love has been charged with “sexting” or any other sex crime, please contact Grabel & Associates, a Michigan Law Firm dedicated to sex crimes defense.

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