Tuesday, April 14, 2009


If you are a 14-year-old girl, and you text your boyfriend with a nude photo of yourself, are you guilty of child pornography? And since you are only 14, does that make you both the victim and the perpetrator? No one seems to know for sure, but a number of states now are leaning toward prosecuting teens under laws originally created to prosecute pedophiles. A Clifton, NJ girl faces these exact charges for sending pics of herself to her boyfriend. If convicted, in addition to a possible multi-year jail sentence, it is conceivable that she will be a registered sex offender for the rest of her life.

And then there is the case of Philip Alpert, the Florida teenager who sent nude photos of his girlfriend to several people, after the two had an argument. Alpert was convicted of sending child pornography (the girl was 16). He was kicked out of college, forced to register as a sex offender and is currently on five years probation. Here is what he had to say in a recent interview:

The laws we have on the books now are inconsistent from state to state. In Utah, for example, sexting is a misdemeanor. But in Florida it is a felony. Further, in many instances, our current laws were adapted long before the introduction of digital technology. Law and ethics have not caught up with the digital world. Few people would endorse the practice of sexting, but labeling a teenage prank or an immature act of high school revenge as a sex crime sends a clear message that our current laws are archaic. Overly-ambitious prosecutors are likely to see instances of sexting as an in to make some “tough on crime” headlines. Defense attorneys may not be fully versed in the law as it pertains to sex crimes. In the video you just watched, Alpert’s attorney reportedly did not even know that his client would have to register as a sex offender.

If you are a parent, it could be your child who faces consequences similar to Alpert’s. If you are a teenager, it could be you who ends up behind bars with true perpetrators of sex crimes. If you are the recipient of a “sext” message, and if you keep it on your phone or computer, you could conceivably be charged with possession of child pornography under many state laws.
Readers, what say you about this dilemma?

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