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And when those laws are broken — even unknowingly — it stops becoming a parental decision and starts becoming a legal matter. The state has defined an appropriate age of consent, and under Minnesota statute, people cannot have any type of sexual contact with a child under the age of 16 if they are more than 24 months older than them.“Sexual contact is also defined as breasts and inner thigh areas,” said Becker County Investigator Kathy Nguyen, who says the level of charges is determined by how far those teens go.Charges can range from fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct all the way up to an automatic felony if it’s proven there was sexual penetration.That means, for example, that teens as close as a 15 and a 17 year old or a 14 and 16 year old, depending on their birthdates, could be in violation of the law if their relationship becomes sexual in nature.“Just dating in and of itself isn’t illegal,” said Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander.“We have ninth graders who go to school with seniors, and they’re intermingling.For so many, the whole world of teen dating can seem like a gray area of what is right, what is wrong and what is too young.But the eyes of law enforcement officials do not see those shades of gray quite as well; the law is black and white.
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-- Two northwestern Minnesota teenagers from Becker County -- considered juveniles -- have recently been charged with felony crimes that not all teens or their parents even know about.
A common scenario: a young teenage girl sends her boyfriend a nude photo of herself, they break up and he sends it to all of his friends, who then send it to their friends.
Emotional damage aside, there are a lot of illegal things happening there, starting with the teenage girl.“She could possibly get charged with distributing it,” said Miller, who says the way the law is currently written, even though it is a picture of herself, it is still child pornography and she is still distributing it.“And the boyfriend would not only be in possession of child pornography, but if he sends it out to his friends, he would then also be distributing it,” said Miller, who goes on to say that the friends who receive it could potentially also be charged with possession of child pornography if it’s found on their devices.