Last week, a local news outlet reported that the 17-year-old quarterback of a Cumberland County high school was benched when school officials learned he was under investigation for allegedly sending “sexually explicit” photos of himself to his 16-year-old girlfriend. According to the report, officers took the teenager’s phone while investigating another incident and discovered photos of himself and his girlfriend on the phone. Now, both the teenager and his girlfriend are facing charges for “sexting” in what appears to have been a consensual exchange of nude photos between two teens in a dating relationship. Judging by the string of harsh comments to this report (which use various derogatory words to describe the charges), many people are outraged that such behavior, while improper, is a crime. Instead, they suggest that the behavior is a discipline issue that should be privately addressed by parents at home. In response to these concerns, this post examines the criminal laws in NC that possibly cover sexting and discusses their application to minors. Continue reading
Tag Archives: sexting
The big news at this time of year is usually basketball-related, and Duke’s fantastic win last night to earn a Final Four berth certainly deserves mention. But because not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the Blue Devils, I’ll try to restrain myself and focus mainly on criminal law matters.
1. The News and Observer recently reprinted a New York Times story on how various states are coping with “sexting,” a phenomenon about which I’ve blogged before. As far as I know, the General Assembly hasn’t looked at this issue yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it do so, given the imperfect fit between our child pornography laws and sexting.
2. The historic Chatham County courthouse was destroyed by fire last Thursday. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Though no longer used for most court proceedings, the building housed many court offices and was the architectural heart of quaint downtown Pittsboro. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, but there’s been no immediate indication of foul play.
3. Law enforcement officers who have probable cause to search a place, but who have reason to worry that someone will destroy the evidence therein before a search warrant can be obtained, have the authority to temporarily seize the location pending the warrant application. See generally Robert L. Farb, Arrest, Search and Investigation in North Carolina 88 (3rd ed. 2003). Recently, the Ninth Circuit decided a case that helps answer the question, how long can the temporary seizure last? In United States v. Cha, a unanimous panel determined that “the seizure of the [defendants’] residence, which lasted a minimum of 26.5 hours, was constitutionally unreasonable.” An interesting write-up about the case, which originated in Guam, is here.
4. Two scholars with the Latino Migration Project at UNC just released a report on the so-called 287(g) programs that enable local law enforcement agencies to check arrestees’ immigration status and begin deportation proceedings for illegal immigrants. The full report, which is critical of the programs as implemented in North Carolina, is here. A News and Observer story about it is here.
5. Finally, I don’t usually have much use for articles that glamorize criminals, but this Wired magazine piece profiling thief Gerald Blanchard opens with a description of Blanchard parachuting, at night, onto the roof of a Viennese castle as part of a jewelry heist. It sounds like a movie, or a video game. Less impressive criminals include the Mafia hit man who the police tracked through Facebook, and the intoxicated Pennsylvania man who was arrested after giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a dead Possum. Gross. As a sidebar, I checked via Google, and I don’t think that the phrase “locking lips with the lifeless marsupial” has ever appeared in print before.
Lots of interesting developments in the news recently. The Tar Heels won another women’s soccer national championship, and the United States finally got a favorable draw for the World Cup. Oops, wrong kind of news. Anyhow, recent criminal law happenings include:
1. Wired magazine reports that one-third of young people engage in “sexting,” a behavior that I’ve previously blogged about here and here.
2. The News and Observer ran an article this weekend about the restorative justice movement, and a Durham meeting promoting it. The piece describes restorative justice as “a new movement that focuses on healing the harm that results from crime as opposed to simply meting out punishment.”
3. The New York Times has a terrific preview of the Supreme Court’s upcoming arguments about the scope of the federal “honest services” statute that has been at the heart of several recent high-profile prosecutions. With the high-profile investigations now going on in the United States Attorney’s Office in Raleigh, what the Supreme Court does could have a significant local impact.
4. Speaking of the United States Attorney’s Office, President Obama recently nominated Charlotte lawyer Thomas Walker to be the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, as reported here. He’s a former state and federal prosecutor now in practice with Alston and Bird, LLP.
5. This blog post about cell phone companies releasing tracking data to law enforcement has been receiving a lot of attention. The title, 8 Million Reasons for Real Surveillance Oversight, is based on a statement apparently made by a highly-placed Sprint employee that the company filled eight million law enforcement requests for location data last year alone. I suspect that figure, if accurate at all, is based on a very elastic definition of “request.” Certainly that’s what Sprint is now saying. Regardless, the post contains a lot of provocative material for those interested in law and technology. I should add that the author’s not a lawyer and that the technical and statistical aspects of the piece are better than the legal aspects.
6. Speaking of blogs, the ABA just released its annual list of the 100 top legal blogs. No, we’re not on it. (Yet!) But lots of interesting blogs are, so check out the list here.
7. Finally, British prosecutors recently dropped charges against a man who strangled his wife, concluding that he was sleepwalking when he killed her. The story is here. In North Carolina, a sleepwalking defendant would argue automatism or unconsciousness, and N.C.P.I. — Crim. 302.10 would be the relevant pattern jury instruction.
Several newsworthy items have cropped up lately, so I wanted to take a day to highlight some of them. First and foremost, the News and Observer has a troubling front-page story, here, about the SBI’s investigation into allegedly fraudulent dismissals of DWI cases in Johnston County. Not the sort of publicity the court system needs.
Also in the newspapers today, the New York Times has an editorial, here, about Virginia Senator Jim Webb’s proposal to re-examine the criminal justice system, and in particular, to assess whether the system relies too much on incarceration. Senator Webb’s proposal appears to be motivated by some of the same concerns raised by the Pew Center on the States in the report that I previously blogged about here. The fiscal crisis likely makes the Senator’s proposal more palatable than it would be otherwise.
Returning to a subject I’ve written about before, a federal judge in Philadelphia just issued a temporary restraining order, prohibiting a state prosecutor from filing child pornography charges against three female teenagers who sent pictures of themselves in their undergarments via cell phone. For the news story, see here; for my previous post on so-called sexting, see here.
I’ll be writing soon about a couple of United States Supreme Court decisions, but I wanted to take a moment to mention that the Court just ordered briefing, in connection with a pending case, about whether it should overrule Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625 (1986), which held that once a defendant requests his “Sixth Amendment lawyer” in court, the police may not initiate uncounseled interrogation. The briefing order is available here.
Finally, the General Assembly is in session. There are a thousand bills pending that would, if passed, have significant impacts on the criminal justice system. (Okay, maybe a hundred, but you get the point.) I plan to blog soon about HB 848, here, which would have magistrates appoint counsel. HB 786, here, would create an Office of Prosecution Services to replace the existing Conference of District Attorneys. SB 788, here, would significantly broaden our expungement provisions. And there are literally dozens of other pending bills, addressing everything from probation to physicians’ participation in executions to disturbing roadside vegetation. Some, obviously, are more significant than others, and my experience with the General Assembly is limited enough that I won’t hazard a guess as to which are likely to pass. Stay tuned for further legislative developments, and feel free to leave a comment if you feel strongly about any of the bills summarized above.