Criminal defense attorney Tina M. Barberi, PC

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Tina M. Barberi, PC

Teens Prosecuted for Having Their Own Nude Photos!

September 21, 2015

Teens Prosecuted for Having Their Own Nude Photos!

I was horrified this morning when I learned of two 17 year old minors being charged for having nude pictures of themselves on their own mobile phone in North Carolina. But the reason for by shock may not be what you think!

In North Carolina, a 16 year old can consent to sexual intercourse, but they are not allowed to have their own nude pictures on their cellphone. Neither minor disseminated the pictures nor were these images for their own personal use. Nevertheless, the main charges related to them making and having their own naked images on their phones.

Both were charged as adults to a federal child pornography felony law, for sexually exploiting a minor. Cormega Copening was charged with four counts of making and possessing images of himself and one count of possessing a naked image of his 16-year-old girlfriend.  Brianna Denson was prosecuted for having naked, suggestive pictures of herself on her phone.

Each minor was both the adult perpetrator and the minor victim who needs protecting from themselves. By charging them as adults, the government is allowed to get around the fact that they are being charged with felony possession of images of their own minor selves!

Both entered pleas and if they obey all laws, pay $200 in court costs, stay in school, refrain from using illegal drugs and alcohol, take a class in making good decisions, and complete 30 hours of community services, subject to search and seizure, and not be in possession of a cellphone for a year, then it will be expunged off their records. Even these orders are completely arbitrary, especially since they are not accused of not going to school or using drugs or alcohol! And what in the world is a good decision making class going to teach? I doubt they will be discussing phone etiquette.

However, even an expungement does not fix the underlying problems both these individuals face. For instance, Copening was kicked off his football team and both are facing the humiliating fact that their private life is now public.

What were the police and prosecutor actually thinking when they decided to prosecute these kids?  First of all -they are still minors!!!   How is it possible for someone to be old enough to face adult prosecution even when he is still a minor and the pictures were of his own body?

The federal sex laws were not meant for these types of cases. These are meant for sexual predators, especially since they can result in registering as a sex offender for the rest of the individual's life. If theses minors were sending these pictures to third parties (like the law was meant to protect), no one would have an issue, but this is not the case.  No one else saw these photos, but because our laws are so outdated and unclear, we have results that are not just.

The federal child abuse image felony laws apply to every state, not just North Carolina. Although most states do not enforce these laws for these acts, any state may do so and it appears at least 10-12 other states do enforce these laws. Therefore, it is important to talk to your children so they are not facing similar charges.

What these minors did may be considered immoral or unethical, but it is not up to a court of law to decide a person’s beliefs. We have laws in place to protect our citizens, not harass them. This is a blatant abuse of power and it needs to be stopped. If government officials are not able to use common sense to prosecute, then we need get rid of these individuals and make clear laws that everyone understands so we do not see other cases like these again.

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Tina M. Barberi, criminal defense attorney in Fresno, CA, defends clients when they are charged with a criminal, DUI, or traffic offense. If you are charged with a crime, contact her now for a free consultation.

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