Welcome back and thanks for joining us here at Michigan’s best criminal defense attorneys, The Kronzek Firm, for this discussion on teen sexting. As we pointed out in our previous article, a nude picture of a minor is technically considered to be child pornography. But when that minor took their own nude picture, uncoerced, and shared it with others, it can be difficult to separate victim from crime. The police definitely have their work cut out for them!
With statistics showing that less than a quarter of nude images of teenagers, self-produced and shared among themselves, result in arrests, one may think that police aren’t interested in addressing the issue. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The problem for police, as it stands, isn’t a lack of interest but rather, an uncertainty as to what is the right course of action.
Technicalities versus realities, the line can be blurry….
In the eyes of the law in Michigan, if a teenager takes a naked picture of themselves, they’re creating child pornography. If they send that picture to another person, they’re distributing child pornography. And the person they sent it to is now guilty of being in possession of child pornography. All clear cut, right? Not so much.
Most officers who investigate these types of cases discover that they’re faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, many of these images end up online where they get used to bully and blackmail teens. (And there’s the added issue of inciting the interest of predators and fueling their demands for the abuse of children.)
On the other hand, most of these kids are not sexual predators and shouldn’t be treated as criminals. Many of them just made a poorly-thought-out choice in the moment, or caved to peer pressure. So it seems unfair to press charges against them that will completely and irreversibly ruin their futures.
So what should an officer do when faced with a teen sexting case?
Most people agree that there’s a distinct difference between the consensual sharing of a private image, and the malicious distribution of them. That is why many cops have chosen to address the situation by simply erasing the images off the confiscated phones before returning them to their underaged owners, and issuing a warning that in future, they may not be so lenient.
Some people believe there shouldn’t even be police involvement in teen sexting cases. Marsha Levick, a co-founder of the Juvenile Law Center, says that police investigations actually do more damage to the teens involved, than the incident in question. She feels that the humiliation of knowing that your naked picture will be viewed by officers, prosecutors, judges and other involved adults, is in a way more traumatizing than having school friends seeing the pictures.
Child porn is exploitation, but most teen sexting isn’t
Michigan’s child pornography laws were put into place to protect minors from adults who would exploit them. However, when the image was willingly self-produced, and no adults were involved, many people feel the kiddie porn law should be entirely different in its approach. But just because more people now believe it shouldn’t be treated as a crime, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be cause for concern. Join us next time to discuss what some of those concerns may look like.
Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of a sex crime in Michigan, including child pornography, call the experienced sex crime defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. We are available 24 / 7 for emergency consultations.