North of the Columbia River, teenagers need to beware of a remarkable ruling handed down today by the Washington Supreme Court.

The decision, reported by Ken Armstrong of the The Marshall Project, upheld a lower court conviction of a 17-year-old Spokane County boy who texted a photo of his erect penis to an adult woman.

The court found that Washington laws prohibiting the transmission of images of children "engaged in sexually explicit conduct."

A majority of the court decided that the law applied to selfies: "[T]his prohibition extends to any person who disseminates an image of any minor, even if the minor is disseminating a self-produced image," the majority opinion says.

That ruling cements Washington's criminalization of a common if seemingly misguided practice among teenagers.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Gordon McCloud called the ruling, which could subject minors to a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, "absurd."

“The majority’s interpretation punishes children who text sexually explicit depictions of their own bodies to adults far more harshly that it punishes adults who do the same thing,” McCloud writes. “It punishes children who text such depictions of their own bodies to adults even more harshly than adults who text such sexually explicit photos to children. It even punishes the child who is groomed and led into taking such photos and forwarding them to the grooming adult!”
Today’s ruling highlights a problem that cases in Oregon and other states have illustrated: that pornography laws have lagged far behind what teens now consider normal behavior.