On Friday January 15, 2010, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (the federal appeals court for New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware) heard oral argument in Miller v. Skumanick, a case involving “sexting.” This practice, which has become increasingly popular among teenagers in recent years, refers to the sending or posting sexually suggestive text messages and images — including nude or semi-nude photographs — via cell phone or over the Internet.
The case arose when Pennsylvania school officials discovered that several students had exchanged semi-nude images of themselves via cell phone. School officials turned over the cell phones containing the images to law enforcement authorities, and the District Attorney threatened to prosecute the teenage girls in the photographs on charges of child pornography unless they took a class he had designed to address the dangers of “sexting.” Through their parents, the students filed suit against the District Attorney, claiming that his actions had infringed on their First Amendment rights.
Earlier last year, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order that prevented the District Attorney from initiating criminal charges against the students. The full text of the lower court’s opinion is available by clicking here. The Third Circuit will consider whether the lower court’s order should be upheld, which will require the court to determine whether the offending images can constitute child pornography under the law. To read more about this case, please click here.