A 14-year-old girl who sent an explicit photograph of herself to a boy she liked has been charged by authorities in Minnesota with distributing child pornography, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The teenager known only as “Jane Doe” sent the picture via the Snapchat messaging site. The boy then showed it and shared it with his friends without her permission, the civil rights group said in a statement. They have also been charged under Minnesota’s pornography law.
If convicted, the girl could face up to 10 years on the sex offenders’ register, the ACLU said, adding that the career paths open to her as an adult could be sharply limited.
“I’m not a criminal for taking a selfie,” Jane Doe said in a statement released via the organisation. “Sexting is common among teens at my school, and we shouldn’t face charges for doing it. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’m going through.”
The statute under under which the girl has been charged states that the intention is to “protect minors from the physical and psychological damage caused by their being used in pornographic work depicting sexual conduct which involves minors.”
However, the teenager’s father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, accused the state of “victimising the victim.”
“To suggest that a juvenile who sends a sexually explicit selfie is a victim of her own act of child pornography is illogical,” Teresa Nelson, Legal Director of the ACLU-Minnesota, said in a statement. “Child pornography laws are supposed to protect minors from predators, and Jane Doe is not a predator.”
The group has now filed a legal motion to have the case against her dismissed.
John Fossum, the Rice County attorney who signed off the charges, told Minnesota Public Radio that he was unable to discuss the charges because the case involved a juvenile.
But there have been a number of similar cases involving teenagers who have been charged after sending explicit pictures of themselves.
In 2015, a 17-year-old boy in North Carolina was prosecuted for having nude pictures of himself on his own mobile phone. The images were taken when he was 16.
He had to strike a plea deal to avoid potentially going to jail and being registered as a sex offender.
However, last year New Mexico passed a sexting law that allows people aged 14 to 18 to engage in consensual sexting.