Sexts, Dick Pics and Child Porn Laws

Twice this past week I received calls (no pictures) regarding child porn charges in juvenile delinquency cases. When you think of child porn–and you shouldn’t–you typically think of adults with stashes of disgusting, sexually explicit pictures of children stored on their hard drives. Offenses at the state level involving that line conduct are rightfully classified as felonies and carry mandatory prison time.

If the calls I received and a recent story from Newtown High School are any indication of a trend, many young people are in danger of violating the juvenile child porn law through cell phone pictures. A minor sending or receiving a lewd picture of another minor–even if it is a picture of that minor–violates Conn. Gen. Stat. 53a-196h, which provides

Sec. 53a-196h. Possessing or transmitting child pornography by minor: Class A misdemeanor. (a)(1) No person who is thirteen years of age or older but under eighteen years of age may knowingly possess any visual depiction of child pornography that the subject of such visual depiction knowingly and voluntarily transmitted by means of an electronic communication device to such person and in which the subject of such visual depiction is a person thirteen years of age or older but under sixteen years of age.

(2) No person who is thirteen years of age or older but under sixteen years of age may knowingly and voluntarily transmit by means of an electronic communication device a visual depiction of child pornography in which such person is the subject of such visual depiction to another person who is thirteen years of age or older but under eighteen years of age.

(b) As used in this section, “child pornography” and “visual depiction” have the same meanings as provided in section 53a-193, and “electronic communication device” means any electronic device that is capable of transmitting a visual depiction, including a computer, computer network and computer system, as those terms are defined in section 53a-250, and a cellular or wireless telephone.

(c) Any person who violates the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

Even without knowing the law, it should be clear that just taking, not to mention sending, a nude or otherwise sexual image of oneself is just a bad idea in this day and age. What is not clear is what to do after receiving such an image. It is not unexpected that a recipient wouldn’t delete it and, while not forwarding it, could show somebody else without any malicious reason. That however runs afoul of the law which makes the knowing possession (essentially knowing what it is and that you have it) criminal. So are you automatically in violation if you just happen to be the unlucky target of someone else’s nefarious plans? No. Another statute demonstrates what to do if in receipt of these kinds of pictures.

53a-196g provides

Sec. 53a-196g. Possessing child pornography: Affirmative defenses. In any prosecution for a violation of section 53a-196d, 53a-196e, 53a-196f or 53a-196h it shall be an affirmative defense that (1) the defendant (A) possessed fewer than three visual depictions, other than a series of images in electronic, digital or other format, which is intended to be displayed continuously, or a film or videotape, of child pornography, (B) did not knowingly purchase, procure, solicit or request such visual depictions or knowingly take any other action to cause such visual depictions to come into the defendant’s possession, and (C) promptly and in good faith, and without retaining or allowing any person, other than a law enforcement agency, to access any visual depiction or copy thereof, took reasonable steps to destroy each such visual depiction or reported the matter to a law enforcement agency and afforded that agency access to each such visual depiction, or (2) the defendant possessed a visual depiction of a nude person under sixteen years of age for a bona fide artistic, medical, scientific, educational, religious, governmental or judicial purpose.

Really the best thing you can do is immediately delete it without showing anyone. That means don’t save it. Reporting and showing it to the police is also a good idea however the longer you possess the picture, the greater the chance of something worse happening.

For parents, add this subject to the already lengthy list of discussions to have with your kids.

While it may be illegal for juveniles to send one another dirty pictures of themselves, it is not usually illegal for adults to send similar pictures of themselves. If the images are not of children, they are not child porn and thus do not implicate the child porn statutes. It is still risky. The pictures could always fall into the wrong hands. Other criminal statutes could be implicated depending on the context of the communication and the nature of the relationship between the sender and receiver. It is probably best to just not do it.


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