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Could taking a "selfie" be a federal crime?

The rampant popularity of smart phones in Louisiana and nationwide has inspired new trends that are also gaining popularity. One of these trends is the taking of a "selfie", or a self-portrait photograph. Selfies are commonly taken by a cell phone's camera function, though selfies can also be taken by digital cameras or webcams.

Selfies are typically harmless photographs, allowing people to share a quick snapshot of themselves. However, if a selfie involves a sexual situation or nudity that includes someone who is underage, a selfie could prove dangerous, and the person who took the photograph may be prosecuted for a federal crime under child pornography laws. It is possible that a person could face both state and federal charges for a selfie that is considered to be allegedly exploiting children.

Under federal law, any visual depiction of conduct involving a minor that is sexually explicit may qualify as child pornography. Therefore, a picture with a teen posted on the internet that could be interpreted by a prosecutor as sexual in nature may be considered online child pornography.

As technologies change, prosecutors are trying to react to them. In many situations, this means more prosecutions and a wider definition of child pornography. What one person may have just considered a flirty picture may in fact be considered criminal by a prosecutor. Furthermore, it can be difficult to determine what is deemed possession in these cases, because with advances in social media, a person may not have to download a file to his or her computer in order to view a file that contains a selfie.

If you or a loved one is facing charges stemming from a selfie picture or other alleged online child pornography, it would be wise to promptly seek legal counsel.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Pornography and Selfies: What You Need to Know," accessed Sept. 6, 2015

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