Minnesota’s sexting statute was declared unconstitutional by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 2016, but the Minnesota Supreme Court recently reversed that decision. The statute, created in 2007 was initially designed to protect children and teens from sexual predators and the effects of the sexting epidemic that has been sweeping the state for more than a decade. However, the court ruled that the law is in violation of the First Amendment. The state supreme court reversed the decision on March 8, 2017, ruling that the statute does not violate First Amendment rights.
The Language of Minnesota’s Sexting Law
According to the Court of Appeals, the law’s language is overly broad and not limited to children. The statute’s language essentially says that any person over 18 who uses an electronic device or the internet to engage in communication with a child (under the age of 15) — or someone reasonably believed to be a child — with content that describes sexual conduct or is related to such conduct with the intent to cause sexual arousal for any person is guilty of a felony. The language was intended to curb sexual “grooming” of children that could acclimate them toward a sexual encounter, but the inclusion of the term “any person” marked the law for scrutiny.
On appeal, the state has argued that the sexting statute is not unconstitutional because it only targets unprotected speech and that any overbreadth is not substantial. Upon interpreting and analyzing the law, the Supreme Court decided that although the language used is overbroad because it attempts to regulate some protected speech, the regulation is not substantial and therefore does not violate the First Amendment. The Supreme Court’s ruling reversed decisions made by lower courts, and the sexting law in Minnesota currently remains unchanged.
What the Supreme Court’s Decision Could Mean
Unfortunately, the broadness of the language utilized in Minnesota’s texting statute could result in absurd applications of the law in the future, and individuals could end up facing penalties that were designed to curb the acts of true sexual predators. A conviction for a felony sexting crime in Minnesota can result in substantial fines, jail time, and even a lifetime on the sex offender registry.
As a result of the Court’s decision, defendants and sex crime attorneys in Minneapolis MN could face more challenging hurdles in cases involving sexting and other types of sexual communication crimes.