Records Show Growing Trend of Minors in Virginia Charged as Felons for Sexting

By David Culver
|  Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014  |  Updated 7:30 PM EDT
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Northern Virginia Bureau Reporter David Culver talks with a former prosecutor who says Virginia needs to change its sexting law.

David Culver

Northern Virginia Bureau Reporter David Culver talks with a former prosecutor who says Virginia needs to change its sexting law.

News4 uncovered a growing trend in Northern Virginia after a teen from Prince William County was charged with a felony for sexting his girlfriend.

Virginia law allows prosecutors to charge minors as felons in some "sexting" cases, accusing them of manufacturing and producing child pornography.

Manassas high school student Trey Sims was arrested on those charges earlier this month, and was subjected to police taking nude photographs of him. Prosecutors in Prince William County had also wanted to take a second set of nude photos, of the teen in an aroused state, said Sims' family and attorneys. The prosecutors had planned to compare them to photos he allegedly sent to his then-girlfriend.

Tuesday, police announced they won't be using the nude photos they have so far taken, and won't pursue a second set of photos. 

Prosecutors will continue to pursue the felony charges against Sims, who could be forced to register as a sex offender or go to jail. 

"This is a doomsday scenario where you can have basically a prosecution that continues down a road that will lead to those things," former Fairfax County prosecutor Jonathan Phillips said.

To help curb the fast rise of "sexting," school systems like Fairfax County are trying to spread awareness through videos, notifying students the photos are illegal.

Phillips said many more cases like Sims' could be pursued by prosecutors, unless state law is changed.

"I think if we can go back and say, 'We see this coming, we see there's a possibility that children may be doing this,' they may have written the law differently," Phillips said. "[Kids] really need to be educated well in advance." 

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