The internet is still a relatively new and growing phenomenon. Adults struggle to keep up with the rapid, almost daily, changes it brings to our lives. Somehow, though, kids seem to be at the forefront of the new technology. And that can be a problem. A criminal-justice-type problem.
This Boston criminal lawyer has seen more than his fair share of cases evolve from juveniles making “stupid mistakes” online. Kids making mistakes in judgment is not new. However, law enforcement is not as forgiving as it once was.
The new most popular playground is the internet. Like many playgrounds, there are unseen dangers here. Kids, being kids, find all kinds of ways to get into danger in various play areas…and the internet is no difference.
This, in itself, may not be a surprise to you. However, you might not realize some of these dangers. In my practice, I have encountered many clients, both young and old, who are shocked that their last name has been changed to “Defendant”.
The allegations? Various types of Massachusetts cyber crimes.
Somehow, folks got the idea that it might be a kick to send suggestive or even naked pictures of themselves to other people. Sometimes that includes posting them somewhere, like Facebook, or sending them via Twitter, vine, instagram, texting, email etc. Sometimes either the recipient or the poster is underage. Some of these kids think it is “sexy” and “fun”.
The truth is, however, this “sexy” “fun” is illegal and folks are going away to jail or state prison all the time for it. Photos of nude underage people is contraband. It is called “child pornography”.
“How serious a crime is that?”
Mere possession of the material is a felony. Needless to say, distribution of it is an even more serious felony.
“Well, even if I received it….I certainly would not send it out to my friends.”
You do not have to. Sometimes photos child pornography are automatically distributed. For example, if you had downloaded such material from one of the various sharing programs out there like Limewire or Bittorent, the program sets itself up with a folder so that, when you download material, that material is automatically made available for sharing.
“I did not know that.”
That will not help you too much. You see, you consented to it when you downloaded and set up the program. So, you were on notice. If someone uploads the material from you, you can be charged with the distribution.
“Well, that’s just photos. I mean, if I write something dirty or nasty and send it to someone using some social media program….that’s not child pornography, is it?”
No, probably not. That would be either harassment, bullying or threats to commit a crime.”
“How can that be if I am not even in the same place as the person I send that stuff to?”
Well, that is how social media works. It is similar to what used to be done with a telephone when someone made either crank or threatening calls. Now, it is done in writing so that there is no question as to what is said. Yes, one can be charged with all those types of harassment-type crimes because of tweets, texts, emails etc.
“What if I am writing something that sounds threatening, but I am really just writing a fictional story or a song? Then I am in the clear, right?”
Not necessarily. I seem to remember a young man who wrote rap lyrics and performed his little tune on a video which he posted. He talked about being a bigger explosion than the Boston Marathon Bombers. He got arrested and held in jail without bail for his troubles. The song was interpreted as a terrorist threat. I have also handled matters in which juveniles were writing a violent story and they were brought to court to face charges.
“Gee, didn’t they use to balance these things against our rights to free speech?”
It is a whole new ball game. Most adults do not realize it, but we are somehow not only holding those adults to these new standards…but kids too.
These are not the only dangers out there in terms of criminal justice and the internet. There are many others and the laws involved are more complex than one can describe in a simply blog posting.
This is one of the primary purposes of the Attorney Sam’s Take postings. To inform. To educate. To tell you that if you are in the cross-hairs of law enforcement…do not laugh it off.
Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.