Do you know that, if you are a teen and you so much as send a naked picture of yourself to your girlfriend or boyfriend, you could end up spending 20 years in prison?
If you have used what the law considers a computer (or cell phone), as many as 20 additional years could be added to that sentence? This is the message Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson wants to send every teen that has taken or kept a sexually explicit picture or video on his or her phone. It’s the message he gives to the members of every sexting case that comes across his desk.
This message is to let teens know it’s actually a crime and that they need to take it seriously.
Is Sexting Always A Crime?
Sending elicit photos of oneself – as an adult – to another consenting adult, while probably technically running afoul of some decency laws, is not usually prosecuted. The reason teen sexting is different is that teenagers are minors.
Because of the way the law works (there is no written exception to taking and distributing pornographic photos of yourself), you could end up being tried as an adult for sending pictures of yourself, but be considered a minor in the pictures.
This is why Hilson takes sexting seriously when he comes across a case. In recent years, he has come across more and more cases. Most law enforcers know the difference between why the laws were written – to catch and stop men from targeting children for sexual purposes. However, a new law hasn’t been written to encompass teen sexting, so the child pornography laws still apply.
What Is Michigan’s Child Pornography Law?
The U.S. Code defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor – or any person under 18 years old. This includes even a nude photo exposing one’s genitals and does not have to include sexual activity.
The federal government has jurisdiction over cases involving the Internet, so anything on your phone or using your phone has the potential to be prosecuted by the state and also by the federal government. State laws are generally as comprehensive as federal laws, but some states are broader and all states are trending toward getting broader in their definition of what constitutes child pornography.
The reality is that Prosecutor Hilson sees cases that involve more than just the seemingly innocent behavior of sending naked pictures to a boyfriend or girlfriend.
For instance, in 2016, he has had to prosecute a case that went to court involving three kids taking a video of themselves having sex at school and then sending it to friends. Not all of what he sees is innocent and so he doesn’t believe the law needs to change right now.
Hilson wants to get across to teens that this behavior is a big deal and it could change the course of their lives. Here’s a sample of the points he uses in a presentation he’s taken to schools to spread his message:
- Those who receive an image of an unclothed person under age 18 and don’t immediately discard it are guilty of possession of child sexually abusive material. That’s a four-year felony.
- Those who receive an image and then pass it along to someone else is guilty of distribution of child sexually abusive material. That’s a seven-year felony.
- And those who create the images that are shared are guilty of manufacture of child sexually abusive material, a 20-year felony. “That’s the heavy hammer,” Hilson said.
In conclusion, if you are facing charges of this nature – there is hope. Don’t try to face them alone, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact The David J. Kramer Law Firm, PLLC.
Let’s start fighting to protect your freedom