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First Amendment

Man charged for texting explicit photo challenges law as free-speech violation

Posted Nov 6, 2013 6:45 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Georgia man is claiming a free-speech violation after he was charged with violating a nude-materials law for texting a photo of his tattooed penis without the required warning.

Lawyers for Charles Warren III are challenging the 1970s-era law, which bars distribution of materials containing nudity or sexual conduct unless it includes a warning on the "envelope or container of such material,” according to the Daily Report. The warning is supposed to be in boldface, eight-point type.

Warren’s tattoo allegedly read: "STRONG E nuf 4 A MAN BUT Made 4 A WOMAN.” Warren had texted the photo to a woman who reported him to police.

Warren’s lawyers argued before the state supreme court on Monday that the law is unconstitutionally vague and cannot be applied to text messages. The court’s information office supplied this summary (PDF).

Lawyer Donald Roch II argued the law is so vaguely worded that it could require a warning with a picture of the Coppertone girl. Justice Keith Blackwell asked whether 50 Shades of Gray would be covered by the law, the Daily Report says.

"I think that's a fair assessment," Roch replied. The statute "would cover the crudest of drawings, something a child might draw if he's trying to be naughty."

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