State v. E.G.

E.G. was 17 years old and diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome when he sent a sexually explicit photo of himself via text message to an adult woman whom he knew. E.G. was convicted under Washington’s child pornography statute.

Juvenile Law Center and American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed an amicus brief on behalf of E.G. We argued that applying Washington’s child pornography statute and the harsh consequences of sex offender registration to juveniles for sexting is contrary to common sense, the legislative intent of protecting juveniles from child predators, and the rehabilitative purposes of the juvenile justice system. 

The Washington Court of Appeals held Washington’s child pornography statute constitutional as applied to a minor who texted a sexually explicit image of himself to an adult “in a campaign of anonymous harassment,”  but encouraged the legislature to act, in accordance with Amici’s arguments, to prevent the criminalization of the “innocent sharing of sexual images between teenagers.”

E.G. filed a Petition for Review in the Washington Supreme Court, which was granted. Juvenile Law Center and American Civil Liberties Union of Washington joined with Columbia Legal Services and TeamChild in an amicus brief in support of E.G. We argued that the lower court’s interpretation of Washington’s child pornography statute is contrary to legislative intent and implicates significant concerns under the United States and Washington State Constitutions.

In a 6-3 decision, the Washington Supreme Court upheld E.G.'s conviction under Washington's child pornography statute as constitutional because "[a] 'person' is any person, including a minor." In the dissenting opinion, Justice McCloud emphasized the "absurd results" produced by the majority's interpretation of the statute. "[Washington's child pornography statute] punishes children who text such depictions of thier own bodies to adults even more harshly than adults who text such sexually explicit photos to children."