A 14-year-old girl may be criminally charged for sending non-nude pictures of herself to a male classmate in Knoxville, Iowa, via Snapchat.
The teen, who has not been identified because of her age, sent the photos in March, notes The Des Moines Register.
Marion County Attorney Ed Bull has indicated that he may charge the high schooler with sexual exploitation, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa announced Nov. 11 that it is going to be part of a federal lawsuit filed by Glen Downey, a civil rights lawyer, to stop Bull from prosecuting the girl.
The ACLU of Iowa, which is representing the girl, believes the pictures are not obscene, and are protected under the First Amendment.
Rita Bettis, ACLU of Iowa legal director, said that one picture showed the teen wearing a sports bra and underwear, while a second showed her wearing only underwear with her hair covering her chest, reports The Associated Press.
Bull contends in court papers that the pictures are considered nudity per an Iowa law because the photos were sent "for the purpose of arousing or satisfying the sexual desires of a person who may view a visual depiction of the nude minor."
The key phrase in that law appears to be "may view," which leaves opens the possibility of someone being prosecuted for sending non-nude pictures.
"[The teen girl] likely violated Iowa's statute criminalizing the sexual exploitation of a minor," Bull stated.
The girl's mother said in a statement released by the ACLU of Iowa that her daughter's pictures do not reveal anything more than many swimsuit ads.
"It is a violation of the First Amendment for a prosecutor to threaten to bring criminal charges for protected speech and expression," Bettis stated. "As a policy matter, we also believe that it truly defies common sense to threaten to put a child in jail or prison or place her on the sex offender registry for taking a picture of herself."
The ACLU of Iowa asserts that Bull is violating the girl's right to equal protection under the law because a boy sending the same photos would not be prosecuted.
Bull reportedly offered the girl a deal that would have required her to admit her guilt in writing, take a class that warns against "sexting," obey any cell phone and computer restrictions, and do 50 hours of community service.
Bettis said in a press release that the girl's parents "are reasonably concerned that the pretrial diversion program would have a harmful effect on their daughter’s self-esteem and punish her for doing something that was hardly obscene or against the law. They do not want her to be labeled or shamed for her behavior."