Stop Criminalizing Teenagers for Sexting

A teenager in Southern Minnesota faced serious charges last fall, charges that, if found guilty, could have resulted in up to 10 years on the sex offender registry. Why? Because she sent an explicit message, often referred to as a sext, over the phone-based application Snapchat. Jane Doe sent a sext to a boy in her school that she liked. He went on to make a copy and distribute that message without her permission. Then the state charged her with distribution of child pornography.

This is a contortion of the law. Minnesota statute 617.247 clearly states that its purpose is to “protect minors from the physical and psychological damage caused by their being used in pornographic work.” Instead, the law was used as a tool for shame and punishment of a young woman. Fortunately, Rice County District Court Judge Cajacob dismissed the child pornography charges in March 2018. But there's nothing stopping another county attorney from putting another child through this ordeal.

There was justice for Jane. But what about the next teenager? We want to send a message to all county attorneys across the state: Minnesota's child pornography law shouldn't be used to shame young people for sexting. Don't criminalize teenagers for sending their own selfies.


Dear County Attorney:

I'm troubled that teenagers in Minnesota have faced prosecution for sexting. The prosecution of children who send their own selfies is a harmful interpretation of Minnesota's child pornography statute. Teenagers who send their own selfies are not sexual predators. Using the statute in this way distracts attention and resources away from the prosecution of those who are exploiting children in our state.

Rice County District Court Judge Cajacob issued a decision in a similar case in March, stating prosecuting children for sending their own selfies “produces an absurd, unreasonable, and unjust result that utterly confounds the statue’s stated purpose.” We urge you to heed Judge Cajacob's case decision and not prosecute teenagers who send their own selfies.