The high school quarterback who was facing four felony charges for sexually exploiting himself and one for having a sexually explicit picture of his girlfriend has agreed to a plea bargain and is now facing a year of probation. He will be not be able to own the devil’s gadget that got him into trouble – a mobile phone – during that time.
North Carolina District Court Judge April Smith earlier this month sentenced the 17-year-old boy to a year of probation, according to Fayobserver.com.
During that time, her order says, the student must stay in school, take a class on making good decisions, complete 30 hours of community service, not use or possess alcohol or illegal drugs, not possess a mobile phone, and must submit to all the warrantless searches the state wants to foist on him.
The twisty little logic
As we reported previously, the boy and his girlfriend were arrested for sexting each other.
Under North Carolina law, the fact that he’s 17 made him an adult, which thereby rendered him eligible to face felony charges of sexually exploiting a minor by sexting his underage girlfriend.
But because he sexted selfies when he was only 16, he was also accused of sexually exploiting another minor – himself.
In sum, North Carolina criminal law classifies teens aged 16 and 17 as adults when they commit crimes, yet also defines them as minors under the age of 18 when they’re the victims of crime.
He was looking at the possibility of being charged with four felony charges for making and possessing sexually explicit pictures of himself, and one felony charge of possessing his girlfriend’s sexual selfie, which she had sent to him.
The two had only sent the sexts to each other, which led many to question how in the world the police had found out about it.
It turns out that there had been an investigation into an alleged statutory rape involving a 14-year-old girl and other teen boys.
The quarterback, an 11th-grader at Douglas Byrd High School at the time, wasn’t believed to have been involved in that alleged rape, according to Sheriff’s Office Attorney Ronnie Mitchell, but his phone got swept up in the search. Hence, his sexting history came to light.
Similar to what his girlfriend had done in July, the boy admitted responsibility to lesser charges in the plea bargain: in his case, to two misdemeanor counts of disseminating harmful material to minors. Translation: he sent sexual selfies to his girlfriend.
The misdemeanors could be erased from his record if he stays on his best behaviour during the year’s probation. He can also ask that the charges be expunged as well, so that there won’t be any record of his ever having been charged.
Should those kids have been sexting? No. It can lead to sexual content escaping from its intended destination, and the result of that can be harassment, shaming and bullying.
But sexting is too deeply embedded in teen culture to believe it will ever go away, much as security publications and parents would love to see the phenomenon disappear.
Will taking away these two kids’ mobile phones do the trick? Probably.
But the fact that they’re now very much aware of the serious legal ramifications of underage sexting probably already put them off, and taking their phones away is very likely a redundancy.
Time to scare the kids
Most kids have no idea about the legal ramifications of taking, receiving, and/or sharing sexual images of minors, be those images of their lovers or themselves.
Studies have shown that the more kids know about those ramifications, the less they engage in sexting.
These are conversations with kids that have to take place.
Those conversations should include concepts such as just what a felony is, under what circumstances (such as a given state’s laws on the matter) a minor can be criminally charged as an adult, what the penalties for such convictions might entail – including jail time – what it means to be required to register as a sexual offender, and how that black mark can last a lifetime.
Halloween’s right around the corner.
Forget the ghosts and zombies: let’s make sure kids know what the real dangers are when they engage in an activity many incorrectly assume is no big deal at all.
Image of Teenager texting courtesy of Shutterstock.com
11 comments on “Sexting teens banned from using their phones for a year”
This was a pretty harsh ruling. I’m a recent high school graduate in North Carolina and I attended a public school. I cannot count on two hands how many kids I knew (16 and 17 mostly) who wound up in court for assault or severe vandalism (setting rival school’s facilities on fire) and walked away with no more than 24 hours of community service or a stern warning. They’re gonna subject this kid to illegal searches and take away his phone over a matter of sexting?
I don’t think they should have been sexting, as that opens the gateway for the photos to leak. But forcing him to submit to illegal searches, taking away his phone, and making him take “good decision” classes seems a bit over the edge. The classes won’t do anything if the kid didn’t know he was breaking the law; it seems like it would be legal to privately exchange photographs with someone you’re dating. In my opinion, an age gap of one year isn’t big enough to justify saying he’s “harming a minor.” Of course, I don’t write the law, so that’s irrelevant.
I just can’t help but blow off some steam about how the justice system in my state is more lenient about violent crimes committed in high school than sexting.
While I agree that the punishment seems harsh when viewed from the viewpoint of a teen
he is extremely lucky. If he had been tried and found guilty of the felonies he was facing he would have been forced to register as a sexual offender. By the way the searches the judge ordered are legal and are often included with probation. The searches are the only way a court can insure compliance with probation orders. I also agree with you that real crime goes nearly unpunished and a sensational crime like this receives harsh treatment. While I am at it you are the next generation and you can with your vote and political action change the laws where you live and maybe even the world.
“But sexting is too deeply embedded in teen culture to believe it will ever go away…”
This has been around since before text messages, and is just as much a part of adult culture as well. It’s just replaced the old Polaroids.
And that’s not necessarily me saying it’s bad or good… 🙂
Enforcement may prove a tad more difficult than sentencing.
Good lord. No mobile phone for a year? I’m 40 and that sounds devastating. I can’t imagine how difficult that will be for a teenager.
The entire thing is ridiculous. Charged for possessing sexy pictures of yourself? How is that reasonable?
So many hastily written laws with unintended consequences.
Too many overzealous assistant prosecutors looking for their next promotion. Prosecutors are promoted based on conviction record not justice served.
AP wrote “So many hastily written laws with unintended consequences.”
Indeed. I know the now-retired attorney who used to draft all the bills for the NC legislature. I was gave him a hard time about this law last week.
WOW I grew up without a house phone, mobile phone, tablet or iPad and we did just fine. I think the punishment fits the crime.
This is child abuse. A law intended to protect children turned against them to suit someone’s idiotic moral power trip should be stricken off and all who abused it should be tried for crimes relating to an attempt to harm the child. This is no better than what any other religious extremist group does. These kids should be protected, informed and cherished, not harassed and threatened.
So if these pictures got hacked from their phones and their images sold on the black market who would be to blame? Would it be the device carrier for lack of privacy and data security, would it be the carrier themselves, would it be the children, would it be the parents, would it be the app service they used, and so on and so forth. The thought of coddling and protecting these children is the very cause of their mental state. How much more informed can these teenagers be that if they take pictures of themselves in compromising on phones and other devices that they may get leaked / hacked. I can think of one big information session and that was the Celebrities crying invasion of privacy when their iCloud Account’s got hacked. Hello people wake the F… up, the teenagers are well informed and well versed in security related issues when it comes to the Internet. Why don’t we blame the parents and disconnect their internet and phone services for a year, and go onto their children’s friends parents as well. This would for sure cause a ripple effect especially for those telecommuters who work from home.
These kids you want to protect and cherish should be punished to the fullest extent of the law and their lives forever ruined by their gross negligent behavior and their parents should be equally punished for failure to supervise and raise their children with a set of morals and ethics to live by instead of living by the morals and the musicians of the music they listen to.
Your must remember that your talking about North Carolina here home of the religious nuts. I support the sentence because the law they used would have forced the poor kid to register as a sex offender so anything but that is a good deal for him. A great law was misused in this case and is a perfect example where an encrypted and locked phone would have stopped this case before it even happened by simply refusing to unlock the phone for the police in the first place. You can not be forced to testify against yourself or to provide any information to assist in your prosecution just remember that and you will be reasonably safe from unlawful search. No I am not a lawyer but all the stated information is publicly available. Encryption and screen locks for all devices that support it would protect us all from this type of abuse.