Police: Girl charged with child pornography | Winchester star

WINCHESTER — Few details are released about a 15-year-old girl arrested for child pornography.

The girl was arrested by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office on April 7 and charged with Possession of Child Pornography, Production of Child Pornography and Distribution of Child Pornography. Lt. Warren W. Gosnell, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said in an email that an anonymous tip led to the investigation, which involves images of a boy and girl under the age of 16 year old found on a phone. He said the investigation was school-related but did not say which school.

He referred all further questions to Ross P. Spicer, Commonwealth County Attorney. Citing privacy laws for minors, Spicer would not comment on the matter.

Generally, Spicer said Virginia prosecutors have the discretion in child pornography cases to ask a judge to decide whether to sentence a convicted minor to adult or juvenile sentences. Spicer said several factors are considered when making the decision. They include the nature of the crime, whether the accused has shown remorse for their actions, and the wishes of the victim and the victim’s parents. He noted that the focus of juvenile courts – which take into account that a child’s brain is not fully formed and that juveniles often lack the impulse control and reasoning of an adult – is rehabilitation rather than punishment.

The maximum juvenile penalty for any crime would be incarceration in a juvenile prison operated by the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice until the offender reaches the age of 21. Under adult sentences, a minor between the ages of 15 and 18 convicted of producing and distributing child pornography for a first offense faces between one and 20 years, although a judge can impose a less than minimum sentence. If the offender is seven or more years older than the victim, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of three years and a maximum sentence of 30 years.

Spicer noted that child pornography laws were written before cellphones became ubiquitous and “sexting,” in which a person sends nude or sexually explicit images over the phone, became common. A Virginia teenager who takes a nude selfie and then sends it to her boyfriend or girlfriend could be charged with possession and distribution of child pornography. The person receiving it could also be charged with possession. If they passed it on to someone else, they could be charged with distribution.

Spicer said the law is outdated due to changing technology.

“Laws need to be updated to reflect the reality of what technology allows minors to do,” he said. “The law hasn’t kept up with the technology.”

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