The smartphone app "Snapchat" is a popular application that teens and adults alike download to their smartphones daily. With billions of pictures sent on a daily basis, Snapchat has become part of the everyday lives of smart phone users. However, most users are not aware of how the application really works or the dangers that can come along with its use.
The application seems simple: a smartphone user snaps a picture of him, her, or some object to send to various recipients. There are also options to send text messages and video. After a picture is taken on Snapchat, you can choose to write a short message on the picture, draw on it, and choose the length of time (ranging from one to ten seconds) the picture can be viewed on the recipient's phone. Then you can choose which contact, also a Snapchat user, to send the picture. When the recipient receives the picture, it "disappears" from view after the allotted time has run out. It is at this point that the potential dangers of Snapchat come into play.
Recipients can take a screenshot of the picture that the sender has sent, however, after this takes place, message is sent to the sender that disclaims the recipient has taken a screen shot of their "snap." Nevertheless, there are ways to get around notifying the sender that the recipient has saved the photo received. Other smartphone applications, such as SnapSave, SnapCrack, and SaveMySnaps, immediately, and without notification to the sender, save and download every Snapchat photo and video received to the recipient's phone.
Teens in Michigan have been caught using Snapchat to carry out "sexting." Many teens believe that the application is safe for this form of communication because the pictures disappear. However, that is not the case. When the pictures have been saved through screenshots or other applications, they are easy to share with other people through visual or texting. They can also be posted to various social media sites.
Sexting and Snapchat have been hot items in the news lately. In Fall 2014, several teens in Oakland and Macomb County school districts were caught in a sexting ring where girls were providing nude photos to boys in their school and the boys were collecting and trading the pictures. More recently in 2015 in North Carolina, a teacher "snap chatted" a picture of his genitals and sent it to a female student. In New York, also this year, a nurse's aide "snap chatted" a picture of the genitals of an incontinent patient and labeled it "chocolate covered balls." These stories all have two things in common: Snapchat usage and criminal charges.
In Michigan, the taking, disturbing, or receiving a nude picture of a minor is governed by the child sexually abusive activity or material statute. A minor under this statute is anyone under the age of 18. This statute can be violated by minors, such as the ones in Oakland and Macomb County, and adults alike through use of Snapchat or sexting.
Smith Blythe, PC know first hand the dangers that Snapchat usage and sexting can bring to minors and adults. We have been involved with several cases involving minors, Snapchat, and child sexually abusive material. If you are facing questioning regarding photos received or sent by a minor, contact our office. Our office's primary focus in the practice of law is defending those accused of sex crimes. Sex crimes can include sexting, criminal sexual conduct, and other activities governed by Michigan law.