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Sexting, child pornography and the importance of working with an experienced defense attorney

Previously, we began looking at the legal troubles besetting former New York representative Anthony Weiner. As we noted, federal prosecutors are currently weighing the possibility of charging Weiner with production of child pornography in connection with his sexting activity with a 15-year-old girl. The charge carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years.

One of the issues at play in Weiner’s case is the context in which the images were produced, and whether the sexting in his case should be viewed as full blown child pornography. Federal child pornography laws are written broadly to account for a variety of circumstances in which sexually explicit images of minors may be involved. It is possible that, in Weiner’s case, prosecutors will choose to impose a lesser charge in light of the fact that the context was sexting, that there was no alleged physical contact, and other such factors. 

Whether sexting should result in child pornography charges can be an issue not only at the federal level, but also at the state level. Readers have probably seen headlines dealing with this issue in the context of teen sexting. In some cases, teenagers have been charged with child pornography under state law for sending sexually explicit images to one another. Critics argue that this is an over-zealous approach to criminal prosecution, but proponents say the activity qualifies as child pornography and should be treated as such.

It isn’t clear, of course, how Anthony Weiner’s case will turn out yet. It is possible that prosecutors will choose to hit him with a harder charge given the previous sexting scandals in which he was involved. Although those scandals did not involve allegations of criminal activity, prosecutors may decide that they need to make Weiner an example.

Needless to say, those who come under investigation for child pornorgraphy should always work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect their rights and build the strongest possible defense case.

Source: CBS News, “"Sexting" Leads to Child Porn Charges for Teens,” June 5, 2010. 

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