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Monday, January 13, 2014

Ind. Law - "Not all sexting is alike, say Indiana experts"

Jill Disis of the Indianapolis Star has a long story today on sexting involving middle school and high school students. Some quotes:

How should authorities respond to a behavior that, while technically illegal, is growing more common among younger generations?

"The kids of that age are of the computer age, of the phone age, none of us can change that," said Frances Watson, a professor at Indiana University's McKinney School of Law. "They don't know it's conceivably a crime."

As more middle school and high school students gain access to cellphones, sexting has become a fairly common activity. * * *

When bullying or intimidation factor into why teenagers share nude photos of themselves, the investigation and prosecution process can be fairly clear-cut. * * *

But when that sharing is mutual, legal experts say, deciding whether to prosecute a case can get complicated.

The Indiana statute covering child pornography and exploitation makes it a crime if someone "presents" or "exhibits" digital images of sexual conduct by someone under 18 — even if the presenter is also under 18. * * *

Since at least 2009, Indiana's criminal code has specifically said that having sexually explicit images of someone 16 or younger on a cellphone constitutes child exploitation and pornography.

The statute could change if one lawmaker has his way.

Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, has for the past couple of years proposed diluting the law. If offending teenagers in a sexting case are prosecuted under the current law, they face a felony charge. Merritt wants to make the crime a misdemeanor in those cases.

"It's a parental issue and not a prosecutor issue," Merritt said. "It will be against the law, but I really believe it's a teaching moment and kids do make mistakes. And this is a part of the law that ought to be a little gray rather than black and white."

Merritt said he hopes to introduce that change again this session.

[Brian] Gensel, the prosecutor from Porter County, said he thinks his office's handling of the 2010 sexting cases has led prosecutors to discuss how best to deal with the issue.

"Unless there was evidence that it was more than digital 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours,' " Gensel said, "formal prosecution was not necessary. As in much of criminal prosecution, cases have to be judged on their individual facts."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 13, 2014 08:36 AM
Posted to Indiana Law