INDIANAPOLIS — The two-year difference in Indiana law between the age of consent for sexual activity (16) and its definition of a minor (under 18) produced a Supreme Court ruling Monday that's sure to leave some Hoosiers scratching their heads.
In short, it continues to be legal, under most circumstances, for adults to engage in sexual intercourse with individuals at least 16 years old, but an adult who sends a sexually explicit photograph of themselves to a 16-year-old is committing a crime.
The high court, in its 5-0 ruling, acknowledged the obvious inconsistency in the law, but nevertheless concluded that the law says what it says.
Specifically, it says that a person who knowingly transmits a sexually explicit photograph to an individual under age 18 is disseminating material harmful to minors, a felony, even though it's perfectly legal for that same under-18 individual to view the photograph's subject in person.
The decision means Sameer Girish Thakar, of Fishers, will face a trial for sending a sexually explicit photograph of himself in 2014 to a 16-year-old girl in Oregon.
If convicted, he could be sentenced to three years in prison.
Thakar's case initially was dismissed in Hamilton Superior Court based on a 2009 Court of Appeals decision that found the dissemination statute void for vagueness as applied to 16-year-olds located anywhere since that's the age of sexual consent in Indiana.
In overruling that precedent, the Supreme Court said there is no actual conflict between the statutes since it's possible to comply with both simultaneously: "With respect to a 16-year-old, consensual sexual activity in person is permitted, the dissemination of a sexually explicit photograph (consensually or otherwise) is not."
Justice Mark Massa, writing for the high court, said it "is a matter for the Legislature" whether such statutory inconsistency concerning sexual activity involving 16- and 17-year-olds is advisable.
The role of the court is to interpret the plain text of the law, he said.
Recent legislative attempts to raise Indiana's age of sexual consent to 18, led in part by state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, and state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, repeatedly have failed to advance in the General Assembly.