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Guthrie High School Child Porn Investigation Illustrates Sexting Dangers

26-Feb-2016

An investigation into child pornography at Guthrie High School has led police to seize the cell phones of several students at the school.

The investigation began after a video portraying two students engaged in sexual activity began to circulate among Guthrie High School students via the social media app Kik. 
Reports say police interviewed as many as 30 students, and Guthrie police confirmed that they confiscated the cell phones of several students. Some students say they cooperated with police because they did not want to get in trouble--especially since they did not ask to receive the video. Others tried to refuse to relinquish their cell phones, with one teen's mother reporting that her son was told that if he did not surrender his cell phone, he would be arrested and charged with obstructing an officer.

Guthrie police say that the law allows them to seize evidence that may be easily destroyed or deleted, even without a warrant. You may remember in 2014 we wrote about a Supreme Court Ruling that says law officers must generally obtain a warrant before searching a cell phone. However, that does not necessarily apply to seizure of the phone. An officer may be able to seize a cell phone to prevent the destruction of evidence, but he or she must still obtain a warrant to search the contents of that phone.

One thing this case highlights is the need to discuss with teens the potential consequences of sexting or of allowing a sexual encounter to be photographed or recorded. 

Under both Oklahoma law and federal law, child pornography is defined as sexually explicit images of a minor under the age of 18. A person who records a sexual encounter with a person aged 17 or younger may be guilty of producing child pornography. Any person who receives the images or videos could be guilty of possession of child pornography. Any person who shares the images or videos will likely be considered guilty of distributing child pornography.

In 2014, the Oklahoma legislature passed HB 2541, which provided common sense in punishing sexting offenses committed by minors. The law amended 10A O.S. § 2-8-221 to provide penalties for sexting that were less severe than the adult child pornography charges that were currently in place.  In most cases, teen sexting is punishable by a fine, community service, a probation, and completion of an educational program or a delinquency prevention and diversion program. The specific penalties are determined by factors including the ages of the defendant and the alleged victim as well as the presence or lack of consent.
 



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