CASE LAW UPDATE:  Whether pornography between children juveniles violates the law?

Juvenile defendant was adjudicated delinquent for disseminating and attempting to aid and abet the dissemination of pornographic work, fifth degree criminal sexual conduct, and indecent exposure.  Juvenile child defendant had sent multiple nude pictures of himself to a 13 years old victim, and asked the victim to send nude pictures of herself.  Juvenile defendant had done so via Snapchat.  Defendant appealed.  On appeal, defendant argued that (1) the pornographic work statute does not prohibit the act of a juvenile disseminating a pornographic picture of themselves; and therefore the two (2) dissemination of pornographic work adjudications should be reversed; (2) the trial court erred by failing to obtain juvenile defendant’s person waiver of his right to testify and, therefore, all adjudications should be reversed; (3) the trial court erred by ordering juvenile defendant to comply with the predatory offender registration statute; and (4) the trial court erred by entering adjudications for 5th degree criminal sexual conduct and an included offense of indecent exposure, and therefore, one adjudication should be reversed.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals held that (1) the plain language of the pornographic work statute prohibits juveniles from creating and sending pornographic work of themselves; (2) the trial court did not err by failing to obtain juvenile defendant’s personal waiver of his right to testify; (3) ordering juvenile defendant to comply with the predatory offender registration statute was proper; (4) because indecent exposure is an included offense of 5th degree criminal sexual conduct, the trial court erred by entering adjudications for both offenses.  Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

In re Welfare of J.C.L., A21-1018, Redwood County.

Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer Lynne Torgerson was not attorney of record in this case.

Commentary:

In this case the juvenile defendant raised an interesting legal issue:  whether the criminal child pornographic work statute applied to child engaging in sending pornographic work to each other.

In Minnesota, the law distinguishes between crimes that are committed by children versus adults.  There is a general rule that crimes committed by children should be handled in the best interests of child.  In contrast, for crimes committed by adults, there are four (4) primary purposes of the law:  (1) to punish; (2) to deter people from committing crimes; (2) to rehabilitate, so that people will not continue to commit crimes; (3) to incapacitate, whereby people are locked up in a prison, so that they are not able to commit crimes.  In addition, another policy of juvenile law is that the records of offenses of juveniles are confidential, so that mistakes made by children do not haunt them into their adult lives.

A typical child pornography case involves an adult possessing child pornography.  In the State courts, these cases are usually punished by sentencing the defendant to prison for a term of years.  In federal court, the sentences are typically much longer, usually running 20 to 40 years.

So, in this case, the people involved, both the offender, and the victim, were children.  So, the juvenile defendant raised the issue of whether the legislature actually intended the child pornography criminal statute to be applied against children.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals held that it did.  It is probably likely that this case will be appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, in order to finally determine the issue.

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