DA office warns against sexting

Published 10:55 am Thursday, March 9, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/Senior Staff Writer

VERBENA — Verbena High School was a recent stop for the Chilton County District Attorney office presentation on the legal consequences of sexting and online harassment.

CJ Robinson of the DA’s office said sexting (sending nude images) can impact a student for the rest of their life.

“This is one of those things that is 100 percent preventable,” Robinson said.

Sexting is not a legal term, but is charged as child pornography, if the person in the photo is under the age of 17.

“If you take a picture of yourself [naked] or you take a picture of your friend … that is production of child pornogrpahy and is a Class A felony, which is 10 to 99 years. That means the minimum punishment under the law of Alabama is 10 years [in jail] for taking that picture,” Robinson said. “It’s not worth it for the rest of your life to take that photo.”

Sending a naked picture of someone under age 17 is the dissemination of child pornography and a Class B felony. Robinson said the legal consequences are two to 20 years per image.

“In the state of Alabama if you are in possession, which means an image on your phone, … iPad, whatever, and the person is that image is less than 17 years old that is a class C felony. The range in punishment is a year and a day up to 10 years. If you are caught with that, you have to register as a sex offender, the rest of your life,” Robinson said.

Each image is a different count of possession of child pornography.

Robinson emphasized images posted on social media, even Snapchat, do not disappear.

“That picture is always on your phone. Snapchat saves that picture forever. All it takes is one sheet of paper with my signature on it going to Snapchat and I can get every snap that you have ever sent dating back to whenever you signed up,” Robinson said.

He said pieces of images taken with a phone are also still accessible even after they are deleted by the user.

Social media and texting activity can also be accessed by law enforcement in other ways.

Harassing communication via social media and text is more common among high school students than physical harassment, Robinson said.

However, the legal consequences for either kind of harassment are the same.

“Don’t think that just because you send a text it is any less harmful than if you walked up and slapped them,” Robinson said.

During the presentation, juvenile probation officer Josh Inman outlined what the department does and their role in cases.

Representatives from Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center and Safehouse of Shelby County also presented to the students.

Similar presentations have been made to high schools throughout Chilton, Autauga and Elmore counties.