ACLU of Minnesota files a brief supporting teen

Contact: Jana Kooren, jkooren@aclu-mn.org, 651-529-1693, 651-485-5925 (cell)

St. Paul, Minn- The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is supporting a 14-year-old girl charged with a felony crime for sending an explicit selfie through Snapchat to a teen boy at her school. In a brief the ACLU-MN is challenging the Rice County prosecutors’ attempt to punish the teen for sexting. 

“To suggest that a juvenile who sends a sexually explicit selfie is a victim of her own act of child pornography is illogical,” stated Teresa Nelson, Legal Director of the ACLU-MN. “Child pornography laws are supposed to protect minors from predators, and Jane Doe is not a predator.”

Jane Doe is charged with dissemination of child pornography. If she is found guilty, she would be forced to register as a predatory sex offender for the next ten years, and the career paths open to her as an adult could be sharply limited.

The ACLU argues in its brief that the prosecutor is abusing the intent of the child pornography statute. It is intended to prosecute people who endanger or victimize a juvenile. If there is no victim, then there shouldn’t be a prosecution. 

“I’m not a criminal for taking a selfie,” stated Jane Doe. “Sexting is common among teens at my school, and we shouldn’t face charges for doing it. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’m going through.”

The prosecutor charging Jane is bucking a national trend.  The president of the National District Attorneys Association has urged prosecutors across the country to approach teenage sexting with a light hand, avoiding criminal charges in many cases and finding ways to impose less severe and lasting punishments in others.

Jane is represented in juvenile court by John Hamer of Hoffman, Hamer & Associates, Pllc, he states, “Pursuing felony charges against victims will not deter teens from exploring their sexuality.  It will, however, prevent victims facing exposure and bullying from coming forward.  The message being sent to young women is that if this happens to you, it is more your fault than his.” 

After Jane sent the teen boy the Snapchat he shared it with other teens at the school.

“What my daughter went through at school with the other students was really rough, and when we found out she was also facing criminal charges my first thought was, ‘Why are we victimizing the victim?’ ” stated Jane Doe’s father.

If the charges are not dismissed, Jane’s case will go to trial this winter.

Attorneys on the ACLU-MN’s brief include Lousene Hoppe of Fredrikson & Byron, and Teresa Nelson of the ACLU-MN.

###

Link to brief

*Potentially identifying details of the client were redacted to protect the privacy of the minor. No substantial legal arguments were redacted. 

Stay informed

ACLU of Minnesota is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National