The Hyprocracy of Law?

This post might well be more suited for my law partner, but I thought it was too important to pass up. There might be some overlap in the the matters I practice and the matters I comment on. But all in all, I thought this had to be brought to everyone’s attention.

I have commented in the past on issues about the clash between multi-media and criminal prosecutions. There are the comments about first amendment rights, use of the internet and how sometimes those freedoms we hold so dear to ourselves get kicked around by the government. Now, according to this recent AP story, I haven’t seen any criminal prosecutions coming out of the teens’ actions, but I do know that a prosecution for this action is not unprecedented.

The Associated Press recently ran a story about teenagers sending x-rated pictures of themselves on their cell phones to their friends. According to the story “The instant text, picture and video messages have become part of some teens’ courtship behavior, police and school officials said. The messages often spread quickly and sometimes find their way to public Web sites.” (Source).

So, according to this article, this is happening a lot. And both boys and girls are getting in on the action.
“For instance, a central Ohio high school teen made a sexual cell phone video of himself and sent it to female classmates. One of the girls forward the Westerville South High School’s video to at least 30 other people.” (Source).

So, where is the hypocracy you ask? There is nothing in the law that prohibits teen agers from engaging in consensual sexual contact with one another, so long as they are within the age limitations set by various state laws. In Colorado, if one of the participants is under the age of 15, the other participant cannot be more than 5 years older. And, if both participants are 15 to 17 years old, there are no legal issues, again, consent assumed. (Tough being a lawyer sometimes … have to qualify everything). So, with that precedent established, it is acceptable for those teens to engage in sexual endeavors with one another. BUT, if a photograph is taken, whether the person takes it him or herself, or if another teen takes the picture, the crime of child pornography, or sexual exploitation of a child has occurred — regardless of consent, infatuation or love.

In fact, this occurred in Douglas County Colorado, in one of the fastest growing communities in the country, Highlands Ranch. A group of high school students got together for a party and a “sex fest” (for lack of a better term) broke out. The students took pictures of themselves engaged in various sexual acts. They were all prosecuted for sexual exploitation of a child because of the sexual photos.

As the AP story indicates, “a study last year found teens are placing more of an emphasis on image and fame than in the past. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who studies young people’s trends, found that teens are more confident and assertive than ever before.” Image and Fame? Teens finding ways to express themselves? Expression? Isn’t that what we adults call constitutionally protected speech? Are we saying that teens don’t have the same constitutional rights as adults do to express themselves? Shouldn’t a teenager have the same right to expression? Or, do we follow the thoughts of Candice Kelsey, a teacher from California and author of Generation MySpace: Helping Your Teen Survive Online Adolescence, that “Adolescents are not known for thinking things through – that’s a generational constant.” (Source). Because of this, instead, perhaps we need to pull back on the reigns of teenage expression to keep the wagon from running amok and over a cliff.


12 responses to “The Hyprocracy of Law?

  • Wendy Walden

    It’s scary what children and adults will do to put themselves in the public eye. Why do people think they need to post sexual and illegal acts over text message and on the internet for the world to see? Where are the parents of these kids and where were they when these adults were children?

    There are so many positive and beneficial ways people can express themselves on the internet and through other means of communication and yet it seems that there is more harmful publicity than good, or perhaps that’s just the focus of the media. The fact that society is accepting of this, almost to the point of making it glamorous, is nauseating.

    Celebrity and politician’s misbehavior is more news worthy than many other crucial events taking place in this country and the around the world. Even the war has taken back seat.

    A couple of weeks ago the evening news had a tape of a teenage girl being beaten up by some of her “friends”. How awful for that girl and her parents to have to endure something so traumatic and the fact that the kids doing the beating showed no remorse, taping it so that they could post it on YouTube.

    What is this world coming to? Where will we, as a society, be in the future? People have got to start being held accountable for their actions. Parents have got to become more involved in their children’s lives.

  • Rob Jones

    Societies change but some people are always going to do dumb things, or things much of society will look at and think to themselves that individual is a moron. From Nero burning down Rome due to his drunken stupor or Bill Clinton having happy fun time in the Oval office things will happen that will embarrass or shame us all. When a teenager wants to do something they will. If they want to get a piercing they will, if they want to make a sex tape they will. Obviously we as parents do not want our children to do these sorts of things and become publicly embarrassed but it happens. The changing nature of society means that now these offenses are much more public and unfortunately this can be harmful to people. People learn from their mistakes and a teenager taking pictures of themselves and sending it to someone else doesn’t seem to be that high on the worst things that could happen list. If people think they are in love they do incredibly dumb things that come back to haunt them like Paris Hilton’s sex tape, or Pamela Anderson’s tape, or the number of these tapes that find their way into the public eye. Prosecuting teenagers for making videos or pictures of themselves doing these sort of things is not going to stop them from doing these sort of things, they will just find a way around it.

  • Jennifer Mackall

    I do believe there needs to be strict laws when it comes to teenagers. I think in a world where sex, text messages and YouTube is the thing to do, you have to have some kind of protection for the kids who involve themselves into these situations. One down fall is once you have posted sexual images of yourself or others, there’s no way to stop the passing on. Hopefully, the teenagers of todays world will think twice before they exploit themselves and others.

  • Beth Bell

    I don’t think that teens have the same right as adults to express themselve because, in most instances, they are held less accountable than adults. Isn’t that, after all, the premise of the juvenile system?

    Candice Kelsey is right – it is a generational constant that teens don’t think things through. I came across this article, “Teen Brains on Trial – the science of neural development tangles with the death penalty.”

    The part of the brain under discussion is the frontal lobe. The article says, “Together, the findings implicate this neural region in regulating aggression, long-range planning, mental flexibility, abstract thinking, the capacity to hold in mind related pieces of information, and perhaps moral judgment.”

    Further in the article, neuroscientist Bruce McEwen of Rockefeller University in New York City says, “There’s enough known about brain development to call for serious discussions between scientists and the legal community.”

    Who knows, though, how the science will be interpreted. Hopefully, it will lead to some enlighted ideas about rehabiliting teens without excusing them from criminal activity.

  • Elena Gorsuch

    It’s easier to prosecute than to understand why teen -ages doing this. There is nothing bad about prosecution of these teens, who were charged with sending their X-rated photos through cell phones. But it would be more effective to find out why it’s happening now. I remember myself being teen age and it did not occur to me to send my X-rated photos to my peers. Teen ages play a role of litmus paper: every small change of value in our society will be reflected by teen ages. Since they did not form their personality, they absorb everything without critical attitude. And if they do illegal things, then prosecutors come after them.
    Teens are simply trying to get attention by making pictures of them engaged in sexual acts. I believe TV did influence them and the accents which T and internet now make. It’s a very cheap fame and they liked this idea. I do not think that is appropriate to talk about whether mentioned teens were deprived of their constitutional right for expression. It is just the top of an iceberg and I am leading you to the bottom of iceberg. Something should be changed because these kids asking for our attention by sending their X-rated photos to each other over the cell phones.

  • Sheila Pastore

    I find this very disturbing that this has become a trend among teenagers. I have a 6 1/2 year old son and am terrified to see what kids are doing when he gets older. I believe that there are so many other positive ways to express yourself. I know parents can’t always be there to watch what their children are doing though and even though you raise your children a certain way peer pressure can really be tough at that age. I saw a special on television that shows how teenagers’ brains aren’t fully developed until the age 25 and the part of the brain that recognizes consequences to your actions isn’t developed nor the part of your brain that stops you from doing dangerous things. That is why as a teenager you feel indestructable and this type of behavior would make sense because they wouldn’t think about the ramifications that could happen later.

  • Tasia

    Teenagers will do what they want weather the parents are involved or not. The tighter the reins sometimes can cause more rebellion. Just like adults, children/teenagers don’t want to be caged or policed all of the time. Yes granted you need to teach your children what is legal and illegal, right from wrong, moral from immoral. Which brings up the point of these teenagers taking sexually explicit pictures of themselves and there friends;it appears that they need to be informed that this is illegal, because of it being child porn and informed that the reason it is illegal is to protect children/teenagers from horrible crimes such as rape or murder by people that do this after they get aroused by porn.
    The children need to know that not all people in this world are kind and thoughtful, but some have evil tendancies and this is why society has created some of these laws, to protect the individual.

    These teens apparantly are just playing fun and games,meaning no harm which is totally understandable, but this kind of behavior and these pictures gotten into the wrong hands could potentially be dangerous.
    I seriously doubt these teens would be happy to hear or know that some perverted 50 or 60 year old man was getting his rocks off looking at there naked bodies, and possibly hunting them down or stalking them, if one of these perverts were to come into contact with some of these teens maybe when alone, or even some other teen that resembled them and then if he were to act upon one of his perverted fantasies none of these teens would be laughing about it.

    That is what the law is intended to do, protect society from dreadful things happening that we never want to happen to us.

    So to answer your question, do these teens have the same rights as adults?
    Yes they do, they have the same right to use good judgement, to be safe, and to be informed of the consequences of actions.

  • Beth Foley

    The rules for teenagers seem to be all over the place. A driving permit at 15, consensual sex legal at 15, lawfully an ‘adult’ at 18, not able to drink legally until no longer a teen, able to go to war at 18.
    It seems we have a difficult time deciding at what age things are appropriate. I think one of the arguements here is the issue of character development vs. brain development. Having three teenagers myself, I tend to side with the arguement that a teenagers brains just haven’t quite fully developed.
    I was recently engaged in a rather fun conversation with a number of teenagers, mine included, who were meeting a Chick-Fil-A. I joked with them that ‘their brains were developed enough to fully understand the consequences of their decision’. One very, very smart teenage girl, rather thoughtful commented back, ‘It’s not that we don’t understand the consequences. We do. It’s just that we don’t care.’ She was not being sarcastic, rather she was trying to express her viewpoint.
    Now, some may argue – what is the distinction between understanding the consequences and ‘caring’.
    But to me, it was rather enlightening statement. I realized that teenagers have a NEED to be careless, it’s a part of maturing. It comes with the territory of maturing and being able to come to terms with your own individual beliefs vs. following the orders of the adults.
    However, our teenagers, through bombardment of the media, ( magazins, t.v., movies, the internet), have seen that carefree equates to sexual self abandonment. Hey, the rich and famous are having a good time sexually expressing and promoting themselves, so that must be actually, even an acceptable form of carelessness.
    So, is it surprising that these teens decided to promote their carelessness by publishing sexually explicit pictures of themselves. To me, not in the least surprising, just a little sad.
    Because, as adults, we know they have given up some of their privacy, that’s hard to take back.
    Should teenagers be allowed freedom of expression to the same extent as an adult? For me, No. Not to the extent that they can compromise their privacy or safety. Should they have been charged with ‘sexaul exploitation of a child’? No. They are only emulating the culture they’ve been entrenched in. Teenagers still need protection from some of the choices they are capable of making, not punishment.

  • Bob Wayman

    The hypocrisy is both on the part of the law and on, in this instance, adults, who, as every generation of adults seems to, thinks that the world is going to hell in a handcart at this very moment in time. Every succeeding generation of teenagers scares the living crap out of adults, who look back on their own youth as an innocent and happy time through the misty veil of nostalgia. Any number of those who are parents themselves now engaged in sexual behavior when they were in their teens, but now as adults they view teenagers today as unable to handle such behavior. This happens in every succeeding generation. And that kids today publish their own images of sex on them scary Internets, well, ahh, le scandale! It reminds me of the age-old joke of the cranky geriatric screaming at the kids to get off of his lawn, or, better still, Dana Carvey’s character on SNL in the 90’s, The Grumpy Old Man: “In my day, we didn’t have sex, we just laid in bed staring at the naked light bulb until we went blind, AND WEEEE LIKED IT!

  • Teens sue prosecutor over racy cell-phone pics « Entertainment Law

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  • Ashley Peterson

    Now and days media is calling this action “sexting.” In a recent survey done by National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, it was found that teens sending messages is at 39% and receiving is 49%. The numbers only keep scoring upwards and with that come tragedy. Multiple families have suffered from losing there child to this “freedom of expression.” Children (yes children) are engaging in such an activity that could potentially injure mentally and even physically. If freedom of expression these days means that one is to engage in ridicule, then the children are right, let them have there expression. Otherwise, there needs to be some ground rules set to “sexting.” A young girl took her life because of the torture she received from her classmates. Check out The texts do not stop after one message is sent and usually leads to harassment, which is illegal no matter the age.

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    […] Pics of Self and is Charged with Child Porn, Teens Sue Prosecutor over Racy Cell phone pics,and the Hypocracy of Law) It completes the circle in the variuos arguments for and against this […]

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