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    Prosecutor sued by students in cellphone photo incident

    Date: 04.13.09 | by Judge Tom.

    In an unusual twist in the war on sexting, Pennsylvania parents of three teenage girls filed a lawsuit against the local district attorney. 

       When Marissa Miller was 13, she was at a slumber party with her girlfriends. They took cellphone pictures of each other and thought nothing of it at the time. Two years later, the pictures surfaced on a phone that had been confiscated at school.

    Marissa and a friend were photographed from the waist up wearing their bras. A third girl was photographed standing outside a shower with a bath towel wrapped around her body under her breasts.

    The prosecutor told the girls they could avoid child pornography charges if they participated in a diversion program. They would need to attend education classes about pornography and sexual violence and submit to random drug testing. Otherwise conviction of child pornography carried the possibility of jail time and sex offender registration. A dozen other students caught sexting had accepted a similar offer.

    Marissa, her friends and their mothers thought the offer was unfair and illegal. In their lawsuit against the prosecutor, they asked the court for an order preventing the prosecutor from filing criminal charges against the girls. The federal court issued an order temporarily stopping any action by the state until the case could be reviewed at a future hearing.

    Update:  Arguments in the case were presented to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on January 15, 2010. This case is believed to be the first of its kind in the country challenging the constitutionality of child pornography charges in the context of sexting. On March 17, 2010 the full court issued a unanimous decision in favor of the girls. They said the prosecutor overstepped his bounds and violated the parent’s due process rights to raise their children.

    See the full story about this case and lawsuit here.


    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    • julie
      Wed, 13 May 2009 at 08:43

      per group, the boys feel that the prosecutor went overboard, as the girls consented to the actions and should not be charged with child pronography, as it was their choice and they did not send or post the pics anywhere-they feel the girls should be offered treatment/education