North Carolina teen Cormega Copening didn’t even have to sext the naked pictures that he had of himself on his phone to someone else in order to be prosecuted for child porn. Having his own pictures, of himself, on his own phone, was enough for the Fayetteville teenager to be charged as an adult and to face felony possession of child pornography charges.
Faced with the possibility of prison, Copening accepted a plea bargain to lesser charges, which finds him on probation for a year, and the terms of his probation include no cell phone for a year, and he has to submit to warrantless searches without any protest.
Let’s repeat that last one, in case it didn’t shock you the first time.
This 17-year-old, whose crime – possessing sexually explicit images of a minor (himself) – resulted in his being in the awkward position of being his own victim, now has to submit to police searches with no warrant for a year.
Confused as to how Copening could be both perpetrator and victim? The Fayetteville Observer does a pretty good job of explaining it, in explaining how Copening’s girlfriend faced the same charges:
After a 16-year-old Fayetteville girl made a sexually explicit nude photo of herself for her boyfriend last fall, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office concluded that she committed two felony sex crimes against herself and arrested her in February.
The girl was listed on a warrant as both the adult perpetrator and the minor victim of two counts of sexual exploitation of minor – second-degree exploitation for making her photo and third-degree exploitation for having her photo in her possession
And to make this even more bizarre, in North Carolina the age of consent to actually have sex is 16. So sharing your naked body with someone in person, that’s fine. But having a nude picture of your 16 or 17 year-old self on your own phone, to share with your girlfriend, that’s a crime.
Now, here’s the thing – we have warned about the legal dangers of sexting – especially if you are under 18 – many times. In fact, we’ve been warning folks about it for years, starting back in 2008, when this teenaged girl faced child pornography charges for sexting.
In 2009 a study found that 20% of teens admitted to sexting, and by 2012, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, that figure had risen to nearly 30%. And we’d bet it’s higher still today, in 2015.
And every single one of those teens is at risk of being prosecuted for possession of child pornography for pictures of themselves, as well as for the dissemination of child pornography if they send that picture to even just one person (at which point the recipient will also be at risk for possessing child porn).
And, when found guilty they will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of their lives, even if they don’t end up in jail.
So please, explain this to your teens.
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