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Teens Who Sext May Get Charged with Exploiting Themselves
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Two teens have been charged with crimes after they exchanged nude photos through their cell phones.

Summary: Two teens have been charged with crimes after they exchanged nude photos using their cell phones.

The world of sexting can be a dangerous one—images may end up in the hands of the wrong individuals, or worse, on the Internet for the entire world to see. For teenagers, however, sexting may lead to criminal exploitation charges.


According to Tech Dirt, two North Carolina teens are facing exploitation charges. Sexually exploiting a minor carries up to a ten-year sentence in that state.

Cormega Copening, 17, has been charged with sexual exploitation of a minor for exchanging nude photos with his girlfriend. The pair was 16 when they sent sexts to each other, and both of them will be 18 within the next year. In North Carolina, consent laws consider those 16 and under a minor. However, minors 16 of age or older may be charged as adults in certain situations.

In 2013, FBI agents were disciplined for sexting and other behaviors.

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Only two states—North Carolina and New York—consider 16 to be the age of adulthood for criminal charges. Therefore, Copening may be tried as an adult for exploiting himself. It seems that Copening does not have a possessory interest in his own body until he reaches the age of 18, at least according to North Carolina law.

Should these teens be charged with a crime?

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Charges have actually been filed against both Copening and his girlfriend. Copening has been charged with two counts of second-degree exploitation of a minor, as well as three counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

His girlfriend, Brianna Denson, was to face one count of sexual-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. The victim of these crimes? Herself!

So, ultimately, the teenagers were charged with exploiting each other and themselves.

Allegedly, the felony charges of exploitation of a minor against Denson were dropped when she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and a year of probation. Should she comply with her sentence, the misdemeanor will be dropped.

In 2012, a 30-year sentence was upheld for a high school coach who engaged in sexting.

Many are also outraged that the local newspaper, the Fayetteville Observer, posted the names of the minors in their piece about the incident(s). Typically, when minors are charged with some sort of crime, their names are not published. However, the paper responded that it publishes the names of adults who are charged with felonies, and since the teens are considered adults in these circumstances, it was proper to publish their names. To add another interesting twist, most publications do not publish the names of victims of crimes if they are minors.

According to, Copening was also facing statutory rape charges for the relationship he had with Denson. Through this investigation, police discovered the photos on the phone, and noted that pictures were only sent between Copening and his girlfriend. The charging detective actually recommended releasing Copening to his parents. For whatever reason, the charges have remained and a court date has been rescheduled twice.

In 2011, legislators tried to pass a law that would decriminalize sexting between minors.

If Copening is convicted, he will actually have to register as a sex offender—all for having images of his own body.

According to the Fayetteville Observer, psychologist Jeff Temple of the University of Texas Medical Branch said that if this standard applied to the entire nation, “You’re talking about millions of kids being charged with child pornography.” According to his research, some 28 percent of teenagers have sent naked photos of themselves to their peers.

Source: TechDirt

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