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Court Says Parents Can Block PA "Sexting" Prosecutions 383

mikesd81 writes "In the first federal appeals court opinion dealing with 'sexting,' a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled Wednesday that parents could block the prosecution of their children on child pornography charges for appearing in photographs found on some classmates' cellphones. Miller vs. Mitchell (PDF) began in 2008 when school officials in Tunkhannock, Pa., discovered seminude and nude photographs of some female students on other student's phones. George Skumanick Jr., the DA at the time, said the students and their parents could be prosecuted if they did not participate in an after-school 'education program.' The unanimous ruling of the judges, Thomas L. Ambro, Michael A. Chagares and Walter K. Stapleton, criticized the district attorney's reliance on the girls' presence in the photographs as a basis for the potential charges. 'Appearing in a photograph provides no evidence as to whether that person possessed or transmitted the photo,' said the opinion, by Judge Ambro."
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Court Says Parents Can Block PA "Sexting" Prosecutions

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  • Insanity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:02PM (#31525354) Journal

    the students and their parents could be prosecuted if they did not participate in an after-school 'education program.'

    I love the fucking hypocrisy around sex in USA. Sure, violence and killing people is all okay, but when it's about natural human function like sex it's all bad and must be hidden. It's a great irony that just an hour ago I read news that you can't even say tampon on US TV commercial about tampon products []. Women bleed once a month. Accept it and get on with your lifes.

    When I was a teen we sent back and forth nude pictures of ourself with my girlfriend, and I suspect many others did too. Hell, we even had sex like every other teenager does. 15-16 year old is perfectly capable to understand sex. Age of consent is 14-16 in most of the world and 17-18 in more liberal US states. It makes absolutely no sense that you can have sex but not send a dirty picture of yourself to your boy/girlfriend, and if you do you will be taken to some kind of "education program".

    The fact that parents can block some "sexting" prosecution is a stupid point. If I was a parent I wouldn't want to interfere with my 16-17 year old teen sex life, and I sure as hell didn't want my parents to interfere with mine when I was that age.

  • Re:Insanity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:26PM (#31525664) Journal

    I sure as hell didn't want my parents to interfere with mine when I was that age.

    That's because you were a teenager, and thus an idiot. I know, I was a teenager once. Know several now. Teens are much more likely to act without thinking than adults. Much more likely to think "A condom reduces my pleasure, so I won't wear one, because I won't become a father|catch an STD|both" and act upon that.

    As adults we (should) know better.

  • Re:Insanity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:29PM (#31525736) Journal

    it's not exactly a surprise that the same religious sect has the most teen pregnancies and such, either. However, don't throw judaism in with the christians. The christians are on their own on this one.

  • by spidercoz ( 947220 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:30PM (#31525742) Journal
    the most rigidly constructed building is the most fragile
  • Re:Insanity (Score:2, Interesting)

    by spidercoz ( 947220 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:34PM (#31525822) Journal
    agreed, but it can also be safely assumed that in general, an adult is an idiot too. what do you think an idiot teen grows up to become?
  • Re:Insanity (Score:2, Interesting)

    by theIsovist ( 1348209 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:38PM (#31525888)
    Dear sir, Please rephrase your comment and magically watch as you move from -1 flame bait to insightful. watch and learn: "The issue with sex in America comes partially from America's Christian history. Many of our laws stem loosely from the laws written in the bible, and as such, there are many laws restricting sex and sexual expression. As we grow in maturity as a country, we now feel that some of these laws are outdated, and should be removed. However, there are still smaller sexually conservative groups that will put forth the effort to control what other people do in (or more importantly out of) bed." Notice the lack of words like "Taliban" and claims of "desert superstition". Follow my lead and see your karma improve today!
  • Re:Insanity (Score:2, Interesting)

    by alexborges ( 313924 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:42PM (#31525962)

    Ah, a very valid point sir. I would argue that whilst there are also mostly idiotic adults in the planet, an idiotic adult is slightly less idiotic than an idiotic teen by definition.

  • Re:Insanity (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @02:43PM (#31525966)

    And this isn't a random artifact of the belief systems. At least if you look at it from the perspective of developmental psychology.
    Kids go through a number of stages when they grow up. During the later part of pre-puberty childhood, children are inherently authoritarian in their mindset, which is to say, when an authority figure tells them something about the world, they tend to believe it.
    If you question them on such information they will refer back to the authority. I.e "Dad said that..", "Teacher said that...".
    The stage during which the kids learn to think independently (if not necessarily rationally) happens to coincide and seems to somehow be connected to sexual maturation.

    If you successfully suppress the development of an independent "sexual identity" or what you might want to call it, you will also to some degree suppress the development of independent thinking.

    So, a religion or tradition that involves hampering the psycho sexual development of children will have a sort of evolutionary advantage to other belief systems in so far that children who get indoctrinated pre puberty will tend to stay indoctrinated.

  • Re:Insanity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:42PM (#31527204) Journal

    Just because their brains are different doesn't mean they're defective. I've read that article, and in fact was thinking of it when I made that post. This quote in particular is key:

    ABIGAIL BAIRD: What we found is they actually use their frontal cortex, the cognitive part of their brains. They are actually trying to think about this. They are trying to reason about this and it is not automatic. It is very labored for them.

    Teenagers actually think. Adults just react.

    I like how you assume that I'm a child, BTW. I'm not. I have a fully developed brain. I remember being a teenager, and honestly I was a more thoughtful person then. I'm able to do more now, because I can set a lot of things on autopilot. But one thing I'm less able to do is to recognize my own biases, and fairly entertain ideas that oppose my own preconceptions. I don't know if you've ever spent time talking with teenagers about anything in depth (science, philosophy, etc) but they ask more and better questions and come up with more unique ideas than adults do. This is something to be valued.

  • Re:Insanity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:15PM (#31529894) Homepage

    I was always assured a lot of things when I was a kid, and the same thing here.

    Sometimes, looking back, I can see what adults might have thought I was doing, and why they acted the way they did...

    ...but, you know what? That actually just makes them factually incorrect.

    And if they'd told me, I could have corrected their misunderstandings.

    Now, adults still need to 'interfere' in their kids life. But the thing is, teenagers aren't stupid...they're ignorant and poor judges of risk in a specific way. Teenagers think, essentially, that they cannot come to harm, because the worse harm they've ever suffered is getting stung by bees or being grounded for a month or something.

    Adults, of course, are poor judges of risk in entirely different ways, as they focus on 'spectacular' risk and not the actual probable ones.

    But back to teenagers, adults need to make sure they understand the actual fact of things, and that is really not helped by adults lying to them about risks in an attempt to 'compensate' for teenagers having a poor understanding of it.

    And it certainly doesn't help when adults natter about 'emotional harm' from sex like some people here are. Jesus Christ. Two teenagers having sex that doesn't result in any physical problems is not going to 'harm' them in any sense at all, people used to get married when teenagers.

    Now, of course, there might be emotional harm from the knowledge getting out, but if we're going to worry about the emotional harm that teenagers cause to other teenagers by teasing, well, perhaps we should start at some saner issue, like the fact that absolutely no one is willing to do anything about it at all, instead of trying to stop teenagers from doing an activity that might get them teased. By that logic, we should forbid band!

  • Re:Insanity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @07:07PM (#31530462) Journal

    The court did not rule that sexting was illegal. Nor did the court rule that is/is not considered child pornography. Nor did the court rule that parents can block any and all sexting charges. In this case the court ruled that being the subject of a photo is not grounds for child pornography charges.

    After some provocative photos were found of some teenage girls, the DA wanted them to attend a class. The girls were not nude but shown in underwear or wearing a towel. The class was optional only if the girls wanted to avoid being prosecuted for felony child pornography. The parents sued to block the prosecutions. The court unanimously agreed with the parents because being the subject of a photo does not violate child pornography laws. Possesion of the photo is where charges may occur but the DA could not prove the girls ever had possession of any photos, merely that they were subjects of them.

    Had the DA won, it would have led to some crazy interpretations. If someone installed a spy camera in a dressing/changing area, then any teenage girls secretly caught on camera could be prosecuted for child pornography.

    So they DA, without giving some people their due processes, told them to attend this class or we are going to press charges against you?

    Isn't that illegal? The DA can't tell you what to do. At the very least, it's a big step out of his job duties.

    I understand a DA can decide to charge you or not charge you for a crime, but for him/her to tell you to go to a class or get taken to court is just a bit much. Abuse of power, imo

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