A 14-year-old Minnesota girl is defending herself after she was charged with distributing child pornography.
The reason for the charge? She willingly sent an explicit image of herself to a classmate via Snapchat.
The girl, whose identity is not being released because she is a minor, issued a statement on Thursday through the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.
“I’m not a criminal for taking a selfie,” she said. “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.”
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If convicted of the felony crime, she would have to register as a predatory sex offender for 10 years. Her trial is set for later this winter.
The ACLU is defending the girl, saying her career opportunities would be limited if convicted.
Teresa Nelson, the legal director of the ACLU–Minnesota, said child pornography laws are meant to protect minors from predators, not themselves.
“To suggest that a juvenile who sends a sexually explicit selfie is a victim of her own act of child pornography is illogical,” she said.
In a brief filed with the Rice County court where the girl is charged, the ACLU argued the charges against her should be dropped.
“[Name of girl redacted] cannot criminally ‘use’ or ‘victimize’ herself,” the ACLU wrote in the brief. “In fact, the child pornography statute does not even attempt to address the phenomenon widely known as ‘sexting.’”
But earlier this year, a criminal defense attorney told a local CBS affiliate that the law is clear when it comes to sexting.
“It’s child pornography,” Joe Tamburino said. “If you have a 17-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl, and they decide to share images with each other that are of a sexual nature, they could be charged.”
Rice County Attorney John Fossum confirmed the charges to Minnesota Public Radio, which reported the recipient of the photo shared it with classmates.
“What my daughter went through at school with the other students was really rough, and when we found out she was also facing criminal charges my first thought was, ‘Why are we victimizing the victim?’” the girl’s father said.