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A Teen Sexting Case Revealed How Judges Let Police Invade Children's Privacy

December 17, 2017 in Economics

By Jay Schweikert

Jay Schweikert

Whether the police have the right to force your teenage son to
masturbate in front of them in order to incriminate himself is a
legal question few parents would think they’d have to
consider.

And yet Trey Sims’ legal guardians had to do exactly that.
In an effort to prosecute the 17-year-old for sexting his
15-year-old girlfriend, Manassas police detective David Abbott
obtained a search warrant authorizing him to take
“photographs of [Sims’] genitals,” including
“a photograph of the suspect’s erect penis.”
According to court documents, in the process of
executing the search warrant, Abbott took the teenager to a
juvenile detention center, took him to a locker room and, with two
uniformed, armed officers looking on, ordered Sims to pull down his
pants.

After taking pictures with his cell phone of the
teenager’s genitals, Abbot then ordered the minor to
masturbate so that he could take a picture of his erection. Sims
tried but failed to comply with the officer’s orders; Abbott
later threatened Sims’ lawyer that, if police couldn’t
get a picture of the teenager’s erection by forcing the kid
to masturbate, he would obtain a photo of the teenager’s
engorged genitals by subjecting him to “an erection-producing
injection” at a hospital.

The overcriminalization
of personal behavior and qualified immunity for officers is a
dangerous mix.

The facts of this case are outrageous, but sadly, they’re not
the product of any single bad actor or law. On the contrary, they
reflect a criminal justice system that’s structurally broken at
almost every level. And the only reason that police never obtained
the pictures they demanded under court order from Sims was that
there was a massive public outcry after news reports emerged about the case in 2014,
and the police let the search warrant expire. (Sims, however,
continued to face felony charges for sexting his girlfriend,
eventually living under probation for a year before the courts
dismissed those charges.)

It wasn’t until this month — more than three years after
Sims was taken to that locker room — that a federal appeals
court issued a decision in his favor: By a divided
2-1 vote, the court held that a reasonable police officer should
have known it was unlawful to order a teenage boy to masturbate in
front of him and other officers.

Notably, though, that meant that one judge felt that police
should, indeed, have the right to do force children to masturbate
in front of them in order to incriminate themselves.

First and foremost, the fact that Sims’ initial conduct was
criminalized at all speaks to the staggering breadth of substantive
overcriminalization. The activity for …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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