BUT I JUST TEXTED: HOW SEXTING CAN GET YOU IN TROUBLE

You just broke up with your girlfriend from school, and you’re upset. You don’t think she treated you right, so to get even with her, you’ve texted those nude photos you took on your cell phone in better days to ten of your friends.

Or maybe, you think your steady looks fantastic, and you just were showing off. Or you thought if that special someone saw what they were missing, you might get that first date.

If you sent nude pictures via texting, there’s a new name for what you did: Sexting. Maybe sexting made you feel better about that girlfriend or proud of your steady for the moment. But the consequences of sexting, such as a conviction for child pornography, can follow you around for the rest of your life.

Concerned with the rising tide of sexting, prosecutors and school officials are looking to set examples, not without some reason. Some offenders have used sexting to solicit nude photos of young people. In one Ohio case, the sexting victim was harassed and committed suicide. Because of cases like these, the Illinois Attorney General has asked victims of sexting to call its Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

But in the absence of laws tailored to this new technology, prosecutors are relying on the more severe child pornography laws even against defendants, who are themselves high school students. In Illinois, you may have committed a Class 1 felony if you 1) filmed, videotaped or photographed any one that you should have known was under the age of 18 in lewd exhibitions of nudity or 2) knowing the contents of those pictures, you distributed them, i.e. via texting.

If found guilty, you may face a prison term ranging from 15 to 30 years along with fines between $1,000 and $100,000 dollars for each offense. You may also land on the sex offender registry. As a student, you may be expelled. Today, more schools are disciplining students for offenses, even if the activity took place off school grounds. In this case, sexting technology can cause something that took place outside the school to enter the school’s domain.

Even if the victim is over the age of 18, you could still be charged for harassment or for an obscenity offense.

If you think you might be charged because of sexting, contact an attorney immediately. Don’t speak to anyone about your case because those statements could be used against you. Sometimes an attorney can even help prevent charges from being brought. Even if you are charged, your case may not be hopeless. You might reasonably have believed the victim was over the age of 18. You may not have been the one who sent the text. Maybe you forwarded something without knowing the contents. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com for advice.

I Didn’t Cheat: When you are charged with Academic Dishonesty.

You are writing a paper for a college or high school course. You are overworked and haven’t slept in days. Your friend, who took the same course last year, helpfully offers you their A paper. Or maybe you find exactly what you are looking for in an article. You use a lot of the same language from the article, but through oversight or otherwise, neglect to attribute your source. In either case, you make a few adjustments and submit the paper as your own work.

Or perhaps you are taking an open book exam in class. You open your Blackberry only to discover you have inadvertently broken the school’s rules. Or the proctor has caught you peeking at someone else’s paper.

Whatever the circumstances, you find your school career is threatened with a charge of academic dishonesty. What can you do?

A charge of academic dishonesty can be difficult to fight, but there may be some hope. A good attorney will start with a careful reading of the school’s student manuals. These manuals are like a contract between you and the school. They spell out the procedures the school should follow. Maybe you were notified of your offense, but were not given an opportunity for a hearing as promised in the manual. Maybe the nature of your offense is ambiguous and the school rules do not prohibit the conduct.

A skillful lawyer can help you determine whether you have a basis to fight the charge. Even if you were knowingly dishonest and have already confessed, an attorney may work to reduce the punishment. Maybe you were suffering from excessively traumatic personally circumstances at the time and have an otherwise stellar record for honesty. Maybe the punishment is unduly severe.

If you do receive notice that you are charged with dishonesty, consult an attorney who specializes in school law right away. It is important to act quickly to preserve all your rights. Do not attempt to handle the matter yourself without counsel. You may inadvertently cut yourself off from a valid defense if you should say the wrong thing. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact me at 847-568-0160 or email me at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com for advice.