October 18, 2012
A new law that criminalizes any sharing of sexually suggestive photos between teens is awaiting the signature of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett—even if the sharing is a consensual, private act between two individuals.
HB 815 claims to protect teens from possible exploitation by authorizing the arrest, humiliation, and saddling of children with a criminal record, as well as needlessly costing families thousands in unwarranted legal fees. District attorneys will now have the power to prosecute any teen who sends or receives a nude or partially nude photo of themselves or another teen, even when it is consensual and even though it is merely the 21st century version of the 20th century Polaroid.
March 26, 2012
A recent and disturbing New York Times headline underscores how little is understood about youth, human brain development, and the law. This is exactly how harmful public perceptions are created and perpetuated—when people in influential positions make sweeping conclusions based upon incomplete information. The headline read: "Rutgers Verdict Repudiates Notion of Youth as Defense."
The story was written in response to a recent verdict in the high-profile Rutgers University hate crime case. Eighteen-year-old Rutgers freshman Dharun Ravi used a webcam to spy on his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi, and invited friends to watch as Mr. Clementi engaged in a sexual encounter with another man. Tragically, Mr. Clementi committed suicide a few days later. Prosecutors charged Mr. Ravi with a hate crime. His attorney characterized Mr. Ravi's behavior as nothing more than a stupid college kid prank. But the jury wanted the 18-year-old to be held accountable and found Mr. Ravi guilty.
The article went on to say, "The failure of the jerky-kid defense is likely to change the legal landscape by showing that jurors can conclude that young people who are sophisticated enough to spy on, insult and embarrass one another electronically are sophisticated enough to be held accountable." And, "the notion of innocent youth as a shield to culpability might not hold as much sway as it once did in court... ." That anyone, must less the New York Times or other legal professionals, would draw such an all-encompassing conclusion based upon this case is alarming.