ILNews

Judges disagree on statute's constitutionality

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

In an issue with great relevance given today's advances in technology and social networking, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded someone who uses a computer to download an electronic image and save it on a CD doesn't "create" a digitalized image under the child-exploitation statute. The majority also held the dissemination of matter harmful to minors statute is unconstitutionally vague as applied to the defendant's conduct.

In Herbert W. Salter v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0808-CR-672, Herbert Salter appealed his 40 convictions of child exploitation as Class C felonies and five convictions of dissemination of matter harmful to minors as Class D felonies. Salter had been communicating with a 16-year-old girl from Delaware and received dozens of images from her of her naked or partially nude. Police also found images of nude children Salter downloaded from a nudist Web site and five images of his genitals, which he had sent to the girl.

At trial, Salter moved to have the counts dismissed, arguing the child exploitation and dissemination of matter harmful to minors statutes are unconstitutionally vague as applied to him. The trial court denied the motions and convicted him on all counts.

The Court of Appeals judges' unanimously agreed with Salter's argument on appeal that defining a person who uses a computer to download an electronic image and save it on a CD "creates a digitized image" exceeds the permissible scope of the child-exploitation statute. The judges examined Indiana Code Section 35-42-4-4, its history, and cases from New Jersey and Maryland to conclude a person who prints an image from a computer or who downloads it onto a computer doesn't "create" the image but just saves a copy of it, wrote Judge Patricia Riley. The Indiana statute is clearly aimed at people who create original images or who disseminate, show, or offer to show or send matter depicting or describing sexual conduct by a child under 16 years of age.

The state argued that the addition of the language "creates a digitized image of" to 35-42-4-4(b)(1) expands criminal liability to include a person who saves an electronic copy of a picture, even if only for personal gratification.

"With the advent of Facebook, MySpace, and websites dedicated to picture storage, such as Shutterfly and Snapfish, computer storage of pictures grows more common every day," wrote the judge. "To punish someone who saves electronic images on a CD but not someone who stores paper pictures in a filing cabinet would be to ignore the realities of modern American society."

Regardless of the language used, Salter didn't "create" any of the images underlying his child exploitation convictions, and by downloading them and burning them onto CDs, he only possessed the images. And because the girl was 16 when she took the photos, Salter can't be charged with possession of child pornography because the statute only extends to children younger than 16, wrote Judge Riley.

The appellate court left it to the state to evaluate the possibility of charging him with possession of child pornography based on the images downloaded from the nudist Web site.

The majority also agreed with Salter that I.C. Section 34-49-3-3, the dissemination of matter harmful to minors statute, was unconstitutionally vague as applied to him. Indiana has an age of consent of 16-years-old, which means if the girl was in Indiana, she could consent to sexual activity with Salter; the statute in question defines minors as anyone under the age of 18. The majority found Salter had no way of knowing that sending pictures of his genitals to the girl would be considered harmful because under Indiana law, he could have been naked in front of her and had sex with her without violating a law, wrote Judge Riley. The statute doesn't give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that sending a picture of his or her genitals to a 16-year-old is forbidden. This issue questions why images like this are harmful to 16- and 17-year-olds when the legislature also allows them to view the same material in person during the course of sexual activity, the judge wrote.

Judge Riley also noted that because of the reversal of the number of convictions Salter faced, the appellate court recognized its decision will inspire opposition, but that should be voiced to the legislature and not the courts.

Judge Nancy Vaidik concurred with her colleagues in reversing Salter's child exploitation convictions, but believed his convictions of dissemination should stand. She doesn't believe the statute is vague, and it lists a minor as anyone under the age of 18 for purposes of the statute.

"Just because our legislature has decided not to criminalize adults having sex with sixteen and seventeen year olds does not mean that the legislature cannot enact a separate statute that protects all minors from harmful matter, including pictures of genitals," she wrote. "The fact that Salter may, hypothetically, have sex with a consenting sixteen year old does not change the fact that our legislature has decided to criminalize disseminating or displaying matter that is harmful to all minors, regardless of whether they have consented to receiving such matter."

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  2. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

  3. So this firebrand GOP Gov was set free by a "unanimous Supreme Court" , a court which is divided, even bitterly, on every culture war issue. WHAT A RESOUNDING SLAP in the Virginia Court's face! How bad must it have been. And all the journalists, lap dogs of the status quo they are, can do is howl that others cannot be railroaded like McDonald now??? Cannot reflect upon the ruining of Winston and Julia's life and love? (Oh I forget, the fiction at this Ministry of Truth is that courts can never err, and when they do, and do greatly, as here, why then it must be ignored, since it does not compute.)

  4. My daughter is a addict and my grandson was taken by DCS and while in hospital for overdose my daughter was told to sign papers from DCS giving up her parental rights of my grandson to the biological father's mom and step-dad. These people are not the best to care for him and I was never called or even given the chance to take him, but my daughter had given me guardianship but we never went to court to finalize the papers. Please I have lost my daughter and I dont want to lose my grandson as well. I hope and look forward to speaking with you God Bless and Thank You for all of your help

  5. To Bob- Goooooood, I'm glad you feel that way! He's alive and happy and thriving and out and I'm his woman and we live in West Palm Beach Florida, where his parents have a sprawling estate on an exclusive golf course......scum bag

ADVERTISEMENT