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"Sexting" laws for parents

By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader


Michelle has a new boyfriend. She really likes him. Michelle is sixteen years old and so is he. A few days ago, they sent each other “selfies” or naked photos of themselves taken and sent on their cell phones.

Last night, Michelle’s mom, Sandy, brought a load of clean clothes into Michelle’s room while Michelle was in the shower. Sandy saw Michelle’s cell phone and started to check her text messages. Sandy saw the sext messages between her daughter and her new friend. She couldn’t believe it.

Sandy called Greg, her ex-husband and Michelle’s father, from her daughter’s phone. Even though they no longer lived together, they are both very involved parents. Greg answered and Sandy began telling him that Michelle and her boyfriend were sexting each other. Greg sounded doubtful and told Sandy that there must be some sort of mix up.

Sandy told Greg that there was no mistake. While Greg was telling Sandy to calm down, Sandy decided to forward to Greg a few of the photos from Michelle’s phone.

“Who is this guy?” “What’s he doing sending pictures of himself to Michelle?” Greg was getting mad. Sandy reminded Greg that Michelle sexted too. Sandy told Greg to come to the house to confront Michelle. Sandy and Greg agreed to take away Michelle’s phone and car privileges. Greg deleted the photos from his phone.

When Greg arrived at the house he could hear Michelle telling Sandy that she had no business going through her phone. Greg and Sandy informed Michelle that they did have that right and that what they found on the phone was inappropriate. They explained to their daughter about how those photographs of her could be sent to other people and exist in cyberspace forever. They lectured her for close to an hour.

Greg and Sandy were disappointed with their daughter. But, they felt like they handled the situation well. They informed Michelle that they planned to contact her boyfriend’s parents.

Under Indiana law, a person who knowingly possesses any photograph or image of the naked body of a person who is or who appears to be under the age of eighteen and that lacks “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value” commits a Class D felony sex offense. A person who sends such a photograph or image to another commits a Class C felony sex offense punishable up to eight years in prison.

A school employee acting in the scope of his employment has a statutory defense if he comes into the possession of child pornography.

Parents, however, don’t have such protection under the law.

In the fictional example above, Greg and Sandy both violated the law. Sandy retained possession of the phone after she knew it contained naked photos of her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend. Sandy then committed Class C felonies when she texted a few of the photos to Michelle’s father. Greg didn’t know the photos were being sent, but he maintained possession of the phone after he glanced at them. Greg’s decision to immediately delete the photos doesn’t mean he’s exempt from prosecution.

What are parents supposed to do?


Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at jterrill@fortwaynedefense.com. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you.

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