The boy in question was placed on trial as an adult for sexually exploiting a minor under child pornography laws, and the whole case has caused a real stir in exposing the disparity between how each American state interprets law.
Luckily for the young man a plea bargain was struck and he has avoided both jail time, and having to register as a sex offender. But he has been forced to subscribe to warrantless searches by law enforcement for a year.
The images were discovered on the boy’s phone during an investigation at his school regarding the wider problem of teens circulating indecent images without the subjects knowledge.
His girlfriend was also identified and prosecuted following the same investigation after a loophole in the law was exploited.
At the age of 17, when images were found, both could be tried as adults despite the fact images were only shared between the two within their relationship, and what’s more, legally they could have sex at 16.
Computer security and privacy expert Fred Lane has said of the case:
There are about 10 or 12 mostly conservative states where they will prosecute kids for this and it’s a kind of moral values thing – they are trying to make an example of them because it’s believed to be inappropriate behaviour.
There is a streak of moralizing that runs through this country that is disturbing sometimes.”
The boy’s girlfriend also avoided jail but had to pay $200 in court costs, stay in school, be clean of illegal drugs and alcohol, take a class in making good decisions and complete 30 hours of community service.
Does the punishment fit the crime? Highly debatable, but what is safe to say is that the law is lagging behind technology once again.
‘Sexting’ and other ‘inappropriate’ uses of technology need clarifying in line with the legal system so everyone, not just kids, know where they stand.