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'Sexting' between teenagers may trigger child pornography charges

Parents in Pittsburgh have likely heard that teenagers sometimes take risqué photographs of themselves on their cell phones and share the photos with their boyfriends or girlfriends. What the teens and their parents may not realize is that authorities in Pennsylvania are prosecuting this practice, known as "sexting," as a form of distribution of child pornography, no matter if the people involved are themselves minors.

For example, some photograph that surfaced at a high school in Collier Township could lead to serious criminal charges for some of the students, including the girl in the pictures. Police claim that the girl, 15, took the photos herself and sent them to her boyfriend.

Officers do not know how many other students saw the pictures, but they said they may have "gone viral" or been shared over the Internet. An officer said that the police were investigating how many people had seen the pictures.

Most people might assume that only adults can be charged with child pornography, but police and prosecutors often treat teenagers suspected of sharing sexual pictures of each other similarly to more traditional child pornography cases. This means that, if he or she is charged as an adult, a teenager who shares a photograph with a boyfriend or girlfriend could get a felony on his or her record and be sentenced to serious penalties.

These potentially life-altering consequences mean that a minor accused of sexting-related crimes needs an experienced criminal defense attorney on his or her side to protect his or her rights and provide a vigorous defense at trial.

Source: WPXI-TV, "Child pornography charges possible as nude photos of girl, 15, circulate," May 16, 2012

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