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Dysart Willis

Where's the legal line on child pornography and selfies?

Anthony Weiner is in the news again for sexting. This time, as copious news outlets have reported in recent days, the former congressman's penchant for sending questionable pictures of himself led him to include his own child in at least one shot. It also led to his spouse to declare their separation. According to one news report, the events could also spark an investigation by child services officials.

To be clear, no one is leveling any allegation of involvement in child pornography. Those with experience in this area of law in North Carolina, though, know well how even the suspicion of such activity can destroy a family. For the sake of the futures of everyone involved, a solid defense strategy that does the utmost to minimize damage is important.

The advent of self-portrait photos is not in itself anything new. What is new are the technological vehicles that make sharing the photos so easy. It is very possible to do something in all innocence only to have it used as evidence later. So a quick take on legal definitions related to child pornography may be in order.

What constitutes child pornography differs depending on who's making the claim. Federal law defines it one way. Every state has its own laws and they are sometimes even more comprehensive than the federal statutes. In general, however, all the laws make it illegal to depict a minor in sexually explicit conduct.

Certainly, any adult caught taking or sharing a picture of a child engaging in sexual conduct could expect to face charges. The interest of the state in such cases is to prevent the exploitation of minors by others.

However, the reach of the law can be broader. For example, the sharing of explicit selfies between consenting minor boys and girls could result in child pornography charges being brought against both parties. And, if the photos make into wider social networks, others could be accused with distribution.

With all that is at stake, and considering how often the laws can change, it's clearly wise to seek the help of skilled legal counsel when serious charges are brought.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Pornography and Selfies: What You Need to Know," accessed Aug. 30, 2016