July 7, 2016

Law Center Victory in Georgia v. Scott: “Talking Dirty” to a Child is Not Protected by the First Amendment

In January, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation submitted an amicus brief to the Georgia Supreme Court urging the court to uphold a statute criminalizing obscene Internet contact with minors.

This statute is vital to protecting children from sexual predators in the digital age but was facing a First Amendment challenge. The American Center for Law and Justice recognized the significance of this case as well and their Chief Counsel, Jay Sekulow, was appointed special district attorney to represent the state at the Georgia Supreme Court. Mr. Sekulow defended the statute eloquently at oral argument before the Court in February. In a huge victory for children, on Tuesday, July 5, 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the statute! This was a very important step in protecting children and curbing the vast amount of sexual exploitation occurring in Internet space.

The statute at issue criminalized Internet contact with a child, or a person believed to be a child, containing “explicit verbal descriptions or narrative account of sexually explicit nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse that is intended to arouse or satisfy the sexual desire of either the child or the person.”

The appellant, Jack Bernard Scott, who was arrested for violating this statute, challenged its constitutionality claiming it was overbroad on its face—that it criminalized lawful speech protected by the First Amendment. Among the arguments his defense counsel made to the Court was that Scott had a First Amendment right to “talk dirty” to a child as long as this talk did not rise to the level of obscenity. But the National Center on Sexual Exploitation wrote to inform the court that sexual objectification of children by adults is inherently harmful to children and a form of child exploitation that is not protected speech. The Court agreed.

This was a huge victory in a time when child predators have instant, anonymous access to children all over the country via the Internet while at the same time the Internet remains fairly unregulated and unchecked.

Since the Internet’s earliest beginnings child sex predators were some of theFirst Amendment Free Speech Child first adopters of the technology and we have seen massive harms to children occurring online. Not only can children be lured and solicited for sex acts via online communications, but also they are often gravely harmed without ever meeting their predator in person. Children are frequently exposed to hardcore pornography, images of adult sex organs and sex acts via live webcam chat, coerced into sending nude photos of themselves which are then used to blackmail these children into sending more and increasingly explicit photos, as well as remote sexual abuse.

As amazing and incredible as the Internet has been in promoting education, connecting humanity worldwide, and astronomically improving the free flow of ideas, it has also presented some very grave dangers. The First Amendment has always excluded child sexual exploitation and obscenity from its protection and it is important in our digital age that these same principles apply to online speech. The Georgia Supreme Court has recognized this and rightfully protected children from grave harm resulting from predatory and unprotected speech.

You can donate here to ensure the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s Law Center continues to defend dignity across the nation.

Dani Pinter, Esq.

Senior Legal Counsel for the NCOSE Law Center

Dani Pinter, Esq. serves as Legal Counsel for NCOSE and its Law Center. In this role, she drafts and consults on state legislation to help unravel the complex web of sexual exploitation. Dani also serves as a voice for human dignity in precedent-setting legal cases by authoring legal briefs and providing research and advice to attorneys and will launch litigation on behalf of victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. Dani speaks regularly on a variety of exploitation topics, with a special focus protecting youth in a digital age and on legal solutions to curb the demand for prostituted and sex trafficked individuals.

Dani Pinter originally joined the NCOSE Law Center at its inception in August of 2015. Dani was instrumental in reinvigorating the law center and traveled the country building relationships and raising awareness. Notably, she drafted the first piece of legislation recognizing the public health impacts of  pornography. This innovative piece of legislation has since been adopted in more than a dozen states. Dani also authored a key legal brief in a case involving a child predator who claimed a constitutional right to find children online and talk to them about sex in an arousing and exploitive manner. Her legal brief helped convince the Georgia Supreme Court to rule against the child predator and shut down the agenda of pro-child exploitation forces to go state by state trying to toss out such laws.

In 2016. Dani moved back to her home state of Florida to start a family and there joined the State of Florida’s Department of Children and Families as a Senior Attorney in Children’s Legal Services. In that role, Dani litigated cases involving child abuse, abandonment, and neglect. She worked tirelessly to serve the children and families in need in her home state. During this time, Dani saw first-hand the devastation that sexual abuse inflicts on children and families and the cycle of abuse and trauma it creates.

Throughout her time with Children’s Legal Services, Dani brought the knowledge she gained from NCOSE to every one of her cases. She could not help but note the policy changes and education that were needed in this field. So, when an opportunity to work with NCOSE again arose – Dani seized it without hesitation. Dani rejoined the NCOSE law center in 2019 as Legal Counsel.

Dani has always had a passion for human rights issues especially those affecting women and children. This passion is what led her to Regent University School of Law. Upon acceptance, Dani received the Wilberforce Award, a full academic scholarship for those with human rights interests. While at Regent, Dani was in the Honors Program, a member of the Moot Court Board, the Journal of Global Justice and Public Policy, and the Student Bar Association. During her studies Dani interned with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) and the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

Prior to law school Dani worked as a government relations intern for multiple DC policy organizations and graduated from the University of Central Florida with dual degrees in Psychology and Marketing.

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