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A North Carolina teen and her boyfriend are facing serious criminal charges over a nude selfie.

According to The Fayettevile Observer, a 16-year-old girl named Brianna Denson and her boyfriend Cormega Zyon Copening were exchanging flirty text messages, as teens are wont to do, when she decided to send him a nudie pic. “During an investigation of other explicit photos that were being shared among teens without the consent of the person or persons pictured,” the cops somehow found the picture, unleashing a flood of idiocy that would threaten to ruin both young lovers’ lives. (It is not thought that this particular selfie was shared with anyone but its intended recipient…at least until the cops decided to “share” it with themselves.)

Under current NC law, Denson was charged as an adult with “two counts of sexual exploitation of minor – second-degree exploitation for making her photo and third-degree exploitation for having her photo in her possession.” That minor being herself. If convicted of these felonies, she would go to prison and have to register as a sex offender. For the crime of receiving the picture, Copening was charged with five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. It has already cost him his spot on the football team. All this despite the fact that it’s perfectly legal for two 16-year-olds in North Carolina to have actual sex with each other, which seems riskier, if you ask me. Nobody’s ever gotten pregnant from sexting!

Cumberland county district attorney Billy West declined to comment on the wisdom of this particular law, but said he generally allows teens in cases like this to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge, avoiding jail time and being branded for life with the absurd title of “sex offender.” Still, the punishment seems inordinately harsh for something that should not be a crime at all. In July, Denson pled guilty to the misdemeanor charge of “disseminating harmful material to minors,” namely her boyfriend. Via FayObserver:

[District Court Judge Stephen] Stokes put Denson on probation for a year. He ordered her to pay $200 in court costs, stay in school, take a class on how to make good decisions, refrain from using illegal drugs or alcohol, not possess a cellular phone for the duration of her probation and to do 30 hours of community service.

If Denson stays out of trouble, West’s office next July will drop the misdemeanor charge. She will be able to move on with her life with a clean criminal record.

Copening’s case is still pending.

Providing a voice of reason in this fiasco is psychologist Michelle Drouin of Indiana University-Purdue University, who has studied the sexting practices of minors (but not in a creepy way):

“It’s becoming a way that people are initiating sexual contact with one another,” Drouin said. She described it as their equivalent of “second base” in the old baseball metaphor for sexual activity.

“One thing I definitely would say is that sexting has become so intertwined with budding sexuality that I think these are exactly the people who are going to be sending these pictures,” she said.

Here’s hoping the laws catch up with reality before we have an entire generation of registered sex offenders on our hands.

Teens charged with sex crimes after one sends nude selfie to the other

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