Old laws leave Idaho teen at risk of being...

Posted at 5:24 PM, Dec 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-01 19:24:19-05

A mother and teen daughter are in legal limbo after a naked photo of the girl has spread beyond her phone.

The 15-year-old student at Middleton High School took the photo for her then-boyfriend, a 16-year-old. However, the situation spiraled out of control when the girl’s mother, Melissa Sanchez received an anonymous call from someone claiming to have that photo.

Sanchez turned to police who said their hands were tied.

“They  said it's hard because the lines are so blurry,” said Sanchez. “She's the victim but also the perpetrator."

Under Idaho law, the 15-year-old girl could be charged with possession and distribution of child pornography even though she took the photo of herself, according to defense attorney Gabe McCarthy.

“The law is black and white on this,” he said. “Though I’ve never heard anyone in the state actually getting charged with it.”

According to McCarthy, the law that exists to protect underage children is now hamstringing efforts to go after photos like this from spreading. Sanchez says she won’t press charges on this case for fear her daughter may also be incriminated.

“A good defense attorney could say if you’re going to charge him, why don’t you also charge her,” she said.

McCarthy says this has been a decade-long issue, ever since camera phones gained popularity. He said Idaho courts adhere strictly to the code and are cautious to add interpretations to it. In the end, he said the Legislature needs to address the issue and pass new language for the code.

Dozens of cases just like this have happened across the country and in a number of them the girls taking naked photos of themselves are on the hook. Several courts have ruled victims of so-called "sexting" are also perpetrators and have been charged with distribution of child pornography.