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Friday, June 3, 2016

Action Item: It’s Time for Virginia to Stop Arresting and Prosecuting Consensual Teen “Sexters” as Child Pornographers Under the Threat of Incarceration and a Lifetime as a Violent Sex Offender…… Virginia Law MUST be Amended


There have been many, many examples of young lives being threatened with felonies, incarceration, lengthy probation and life on the Virginia State Police Sex Offender as a Violent Offender for "Sexting" in the news over the last 10 years. 

One of the most notable cases has turned into a civil case recently:
·     Teen in Va. 'sexting' case sues prosecutor, detective for civil rights violations, May 29, 2016 http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/article_71af5148-0733-5a6f-936d-f8cb189741c6.html
Back in the Summer & Autumn of 2009 the Virginia State Crime Commission met to study Teen Sexting and charging them under Virginia Child Pornography Statutes, no recommendations were made by the Commission.
·       Crime Panel Refuses to Call for Measure to Curb Sexting, December 16, 2009   http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/16/crime-panel-refuses-to-call-for-measure-to-curb-se/print/ 

Then again in the Summer & Autumn of 2014 the Virginia State Crime Commission met to study Teen Sexting and charging them under Virginia Child Pornography Statutes, and again no recommendations were made by the Commission.
·       Va. crime panel backs cigarette retailer licensing, December 2, 2014 http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/2/searches-cigarettes-sexting-top-panels-agenda/

The total number of minors in Virginia being arrested for pornography has increased expeditiously and the 10-12 year old range hasn’t been zero since 2009 see the above chart. 

It’s time for Virginia to separate Teen-to-Teen Sexting from Child Pornography Production, Distribution and Possession in our statutes. Depending on the police, investigators and Prosecutors (Commonwealth’s Attorney’s) to make the correct call in these situations is NOT working. 

We also can not forget the 18 and 19 year olds who are in age-appropriate relationships with 16 and 17 year olds who do not force, threaten, intimidate or extort the younger participant. They are no threat to society and prosecuting them as Child-Pornographers with a felony OR even a misdemeanor serves no positive purpose. 

The teens in these Sexting situations are NOT unknown, nameless children being abused by an adult for their sexual gratification or profit. These are not children who are being abused; who need to be rescued and to try and claim we can not successfully separate the two within our Code of Law because abusers won’t be properly punished is absurd. 

#9 of my 28 Legislative Fixes (or Goals) has always been to Discern Teen-to-Teen images (Sexting) from Real Child Pornography 

Virginia code has an “age gap allowance” in our Carnal Knowledge statute; this allows for age-appropriate relationships and prevents overzealous Prosecutors from filing charges, threatening incarceration and watering down our already bloated VSP Sex Offender Registry. 

Virginia could easily add a “4-year age gap” to the following statutes:
  • Child Pornography Production
  • Child Pornography Distribution
  • Child Pornography Possession
  • Child Pornography Solicitation 
By doing this no teenagers (including 18 and 19 year olds) who willing participate in creating and or sharing images of themselves could be arbitrarily prosecuted.  

While still allowing prosecutions for:
  1. Anyone who uses threats, intimidation or force to acquire the image
  2. Anyone who takes the image without the other person knowledge
  3. Anyone who attempts to extort the person in the image
  4. Anyone who profits from the image
  5. Anyone who steals (hacks into a phone or computer) an image without permission
  6. Anyone who publicly posts images as a form of revenge to embarrass or harass the person in the image
  7. Anyone who “grooms” the person in the image
  8. Anyone 4 years and one day older than the person in the image
Arbitrary investigations and criminal prosecutions waste State resources, they destroy reputations, result in expulsion for school, termination from employment and eviction from housing all for a situation where no one was harmed, when there was no threat/danger to begin with. 

Teen Sexting while foolish and a moral conundrum no one was violated or victimized and criminal prosecution is NOT the appropriate response. 

It’s time for Virginia to amend its Child Pornography statutes by adding a 4-year Age Gap  so no more teenagers who consensually “Sext” face arrest, prosecution, pubic humiliation and probation under the threat of incarceration and registration as a public Violent Sex Offender. 

Action Item:
  1. Ask Virginia Governor McAuliffe https://governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office/ to find a sponsor and/or support legislation at the January 2017 General Assembly session to add a 4-year Age Gap to the 4 sections of our Child Pornography statutes.
  2. Tell your one Virginia Delegate and your one Virginia Senator http://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/ to sponsor legislation at the January 2017 General Assembly session to add a 4-year Age Gap to the 4 sections of our Child Pornography statutes.
  3. Ask the Virginia ACLU to step up to prevent overzealous Commonwealth’s Attorneys and Detectives from sweeping up consensual teen Sexting under Virginia’s Child Pornography statutes and the ONLY way to do that is to add an age-gap allowance.
Thank you! 

Mary Devoy