(RT) — Sexting minors is illegal, but having sex with them is okay, an Indiana Supreme Court has ruled.
Indiana high school teacher Sameer Thakar faces three years in prison for sending nude photographs to a 16-year old girl after the Supreme Court ruled earlier this week to reverse a lower court’s decision to throw out the case.
Thakar began texting the teenager in 2014, when he was 38. After a short period in which the girl told him she was underage, he then sent her images of his erect penis, court documents reveal.
The State charged then-38-year-old Sameer Girish Thakar with Class D felony dissemination of matter harmful to minors under Indiana Code section 35-49-3-3(a)(1) (2008) (“the Dissemination Statute”), after Thakar sent a photograph of his erect penis to a 16-year-old girl. The trial court dismissed the charges, relying upon Salter v. State, 906 N.E.2d 212 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), trans. not sought, which found the Dissemination Statute void for vagueness as applied, because the intended recipient met Indiana’s age of consent to sexual activity. We now overrule Salter, hold that the Dissemination Statute is not unconstitutionally vague, and reverse.
He was charged with one count of felony dissemination of matter harmful to minors, but argued in court that the charge doesn’t make sense.
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In Indiana, it is legal for adults to have consensual sex with 16 year olds. It is illegal, however, for a person to knowingly send sexually explicit photographs to someone under 18, which is classed as disseminating material harmful to minors.
The court originally threw out the charges, explaining it was “patently illogical” that a man could have sex with a teenager, but not send them images. The case was appealed and ended up in Indiana’s Supreme Court.
Believing that it was patently illogical that an adult man could legally show his penis to a 16-year-old through consensual activity in person, but not through photography, the Salter court held the statute was unconstitutionally vague as applied because the activity in question would not be understood by a person of ordinary intelligence as “‘patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable matter for or performance before minors,’” which is a necessary element of the statutory definition of “harmful to minors” contained in Indiana Code section 35-49-2-2 (2008).
The Supreme Court found the charges should be upheld, despite the “inconsistent” law. It found no conflict between the two rules, as both can be complied with at the same time.
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“With respect to a 16-year-old, consensual sexual activity in person is permitted, the dissemination of a sexually explicit photograph (consensually or otherwise) is not,” Justice Mark Massa wrote.
Massa said the court interprets the text of the law, and that it’s up to state lawmakers to sort out the inconsistency.