A new application of an existing law makes “sexting” an even worse idea. The Internet and the Law:
by: W. Les Hartman
The internet is a large place mostly devoid of rules. Here’s a simple rule to follow when deciding whether or not to email (or Tweet or Facebook) that sexy picture of your girlfriend: Don’t.
And for any parents of teenagers out there, do your kids a favor and tell them to never share anything remotely sexual via electronic means; they could be looking at a Megan’s Law violation.
“What happens now is if you transmit an image of someone naked, or something sexually explicit, you’re facing up to a 3rd degree crime with up to 3-to-5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine,” said W. Les Hartman, a KMHL partner who specializes in criminal defense. “So now, if you snap a picture of your girlfriend and share it, it’s potentially a crime. And if your girlfriend is a minor, now it’s Megan’s Law.”
This statute, N.J.S.A. 2C14-9, came to be back in the 1990s under the Gov. Christie Whitman administration. At the time, there were no laws on the books pertaining to peeping toms, specifically peeping toms who were using hidden cameras to photograph and videotape their prey.
The same law is now being applied to sending and sharing pictures via the Internet.
Of course, for consenting adults, sharing sexually explicit images is not illegal. It’s when the sharing is done without the consent of the person pictured that the problems arise.
But when it comes to minors, there is no grey area. Consent is not the issue. The issue is age.
“Kids think it’s no big deal to share,” Hartman said. “But if someone shares a picture of a minor, no matter how old the person sharing it is, even if they’re a minor themselves, they’re exposed to Megan’s Law. And if they put it on social media, they’re really exposed. And the scary part is so many kids are doing this, thinking it’s no big deal.”
From adults having to enter Pre Trial Intervention due to snapping and sharing a picture of a one-night stand to otherwise law-abiding teenagers facing a decade or more of being on the Megan’s Law list of offenders, the lesson here is simple and stark.
“Don’t do it,” Hartman said. “Don’t share sexual or sexually explicit pictures. You just don’t know where they’re going to end up.”