A man accused of texting an unsolicited picture of his tattooed genitals to a married mother of young children did not commit a crime under a Georgia state nudity law, the state's Supreme Court ruled on Monday.
Charles Lee Warren faced up to three years in prison after being indicted under a 1970 Georgia law that makes it illegal to send unsolicited nude photographs by mail without a proper warning on the outside of the envelope.
Prosecutors said he texted the picture of his tattooed penis in October 2012 to a woman who then complained to police. According to prosecutors, Warren's genitals were tattooed with the phrase, "STRONG E nuf 4 A MAN BUT Made 4 A WOMAN."
The Georgia Supreme Court said the state law did not cover photos sent electronically through a cell phone text message, and justices dismissed the criminal charge in a unanimous decision.
Sender argued on free speech grounds
Legislation proposed last year to amend the law to include pictures transmitted electronically did not pass, according to Georgia General Assembly records.
The state has no other law governing these types of cases, said Lauren Kane, spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.
"We respectfully accept the decision of the Georgia Supreme Court," Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace, whose office prosecuted the texting case, said in a statement.
The defendant's attorney, Donald Roch, also challenged the law on the ground that it violated his client's First Amendment guarantee of free speech, but the court did not address that constitutional issue.
"Obviously, we're pleased with the ruling," Roch said.