A story that is becoming more and more common: what starts as innocent text messaging between teenagers turns sexual. Soon the messages, photos or videos make their way to authorities. Next, as in the case of a teenager in the La Joya School District in Texas, is being charged with possession of child pornography with the risk of prison and a sex offender label.
The recent case in Texas is reigniting the debate over teens sending sexually explicit materials by phone.
17-year-old Jorge Suchil was text messaging with a 16-year-old girl. At some point, their conversation became sexual and Suchil allegedly asked the girl to send him a topless photo. After the girl complied, Suchil allegedly demanded a fully nude photo, or else he would forward the topless photo to his friends. The girl agreed and sent the photo. The next day, the girl reported the matter to administrators at Palmview High School.
As Jared Taylor of the Monitor reports, Suchil eventually confessed after the assistant principal found the photo on his cell phone. He offered a written confession to the police. Soon thereafter, he was arrested on charges of child pornography. Police reported finding nude photos of several other minors on his phone. Suchil now faces the prospect of being charged as an adult.
Raul Gonzalez, the La Joya school district police chief, said this kind of sexting situation happens far more frequently than most parents realize.
It's really common, Gonzalez said. It's one of the things we've been noticing, that kids have been sending messages like that to each other. We're not going to look the other way and not do anything about it.
However, there is a growing concern that despite the discomfort caused to parents by sexting cases, children are unnecessarily ending up with serious criminal records.
It is both inappropriate and potentially illegal for teens to participate in sexting -- especially when photos are transmitted, said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. However, teens shouldn't necessarily be prosecuted for the offenses. That is not the goal...Our society is not necessarily going to be improved by putting a bunch of teens behind bars.
In his May 5 article, Taylor points out that if Suchil had sex with the minor in question, he would be protected by a state law allowing sexual intercourse between minors.
Adding further intrigue, Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra believes that generally speaking, "the person who produced the picture and sent it to somebody is guilty of a crime." In other words, a person can be guilty of child pornography for taking their own picture and sending it to someone.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott offers some advice worthy of consideration by all teens, and everyone else for that matter:
Do not assume anything sent or posted is going to remain private.
Anything sent or posted in cyberspace will never truly go away.
Do not give in to the pressure to do something that causes discomfort, even in cyberspace.
Consider the recipient's reaction.
Nothing is truly anonymous.
- 3rd Circuit Declines to Rule: Is Sexting Pornography? (FindLaw)
- Court Weighs Teen Sexting and Child Pornography Charges (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Preliminary Injunction Against DA's "Sexting" Ultimatum Upheld (FindLaw Third Circuit Blog)
- Sexting Teens Get Reprieve from Judge on Child Porn Laws, But Will it Last? (FindLaw's Blotter)
- What is Sexting? (FindLaw's LawBrain)
- Sex Offenses Overview (provided by Law Offices of James F. Pokorny, A P.C.)\
- Sex Offender Registry (provided by The Law Offices of Howard A. Snader, LLC)