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'Sexting' Statute Declared Void for Vagueness

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A trial court in Lehigh County recently declared the Sexual Abuse of Children statute Constitutionally infirm as applied to a juvenile.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Sex Crimes Defense Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

In re C. S., 2012 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec. LEXIS 403 (Pa. County Ct. 2012) a trial court held it properly dismissed sexual abuse of children (18 Pa.C.S. § 6312) and related charges against a female juvenile because the child pornography statutes as-applied toteenage sexting fail to provide a teenager of ordinary intelligence fair notice of what is prohibited.  The Court found that the statute was "void for vagueness reasons". 

Here, C.S., a juvenile, posted consensual sexual acts of M.T. and L.C. to his Facebook page.  The intent of C.S. was as an expose of L.C.'s activities.  C.S. was prosecuted for sexual abuse of children for having posted such depictions.

The Holding of the Court:

The Court held that the child pornography statutes as-applied to teenage sexting or in this case, teenage Facebook posting, fails to provide a teenager of ordinary intelligence "fair notice" of what is prohibited. It also authorizes or encourages enforcement without proper guidelines or discretion.  A Constitutionally "vague" statute proscribes activity in terms so ambiguous that reasonable persons may differ as to what is actually prohibited.

The Court's rationale:

The world of the new millennium teen suggests that a significant number of them engage in sexting.  The purpose behind the child pornography statutes has little or nothing to do with "sexting".  Section 6312 was enacted "plainly to protect children, end the abuse and exploitation of children, and eradicate the production and supply of child pornography.  A number of scholars and jurists have questioned the wisdom of using laws designed to protect children from abuse by others, to punish a child for their mistake.

If you have been charged with a sex crime or are facing an investigation due to possession of child pornography, you should contact experienced counsel.  You may contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

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