Advancements in technology have created a lot of opportunities to connect ourselves with everyday objects. We can locate our phone with our watch, start our cars from our living room, set off alarms from remote distances, activate sex toys through the walls…
Don’t worry, you haven’t stumbled onto a website that you didn’t intend to visit. Recent advancements in technology have created new ways for people to use sex toys on others… without even being present.
However, this opens up a lot of opportunities for supposedly harmless pranks to become serious criminal offenses if the “victim” does not give their permission ahead of time.
What People in Minnesota Need to Know about How This Technology Works
Discussions about sex toys, wireless technology, and the law are fairly new. In October of 2017, Gizmodo published an article about the dangers of “screwdriving.” It’s not a huge problem –yet – but it could become one.
What is it?
Essentially, sex toy companies have started exploring ways that people can connect through wireless technology. Just as you can connect your AirPods to your phone, you can now connect your phone to a device that you or a partner is “wearing.” The technology can then allow you to turn the device on. If the device has a camera, you may be able to see what’s going on as well.
Most of these connections require a close distance, but after the term “screwdriving” entered public discussions, users reported that they could find (and potentially activate) sex toys owned by roommates. Or neighbors.
At first, this might sound like a funny prank. You turn on the device and scare your roommate in the other room, who jumps at the sight of their vibrator moving on its own.
Silly. Juvenile, even, but probably doesn’t rise to the level of a criminal offense.
However, the potential to connect to another person’s sex toys poses a big problem: people can potentially “hack” into sex toys, activating them without the owner’s consent. They may also be able to view images or video from the toy without the owner’s consent.
In Minnesota, this “funny” prank could potentially land you sexual assault charges.
Does “Long Distance” Sexual Assault Really Count in Minnesota?
Hacking a vibrator does not sound like your “traditional” sexual assault case. In most sexual assault incidents, both people are typically at least in the same room.
So, does this really “count?”
If you’re looking at the legal definition of rape, yes, it does.
The law states that any sexual act that is committed through the use of unlawful force or threats is considered sexual assault. This includes forced masturbation. Actual physical contact is not mentioned in the law.
So, if you hack into a sex toy and use it on an unwilling participant, they could potentially file criminal charges against you.
Screwdriving Could Be Charged as First Degree Sexual Assault
Obviously, sexual assault charges are no joke. Get charged in Minnesota and you could face years behind bars – even if no penetration was involved.
In fact, “screwdriving” could land someone the most serious sexual assault charge in the state: first degree sexual assault.
Minnesota law states that a person may be charged with first degree sexual assault if:
- The circumstances placed the victim in fear of imminent physical harm; or
- The defendant is helped by another person to make the victim submit
If you think about it, a hacked sex toy could be pretty terrifying. And a group of buddies who find a connection to a sex toy may rile each other up to engage in the “prank.”
Put these two things together in a case and it could result in up to 30 years in prison and $40,000 in fines.
In addition to jail time and heavy fees, you could find yourself on the sex offender registry here. This “blacklist” may prevent you from getting jobs, renting an apartment, or even pursuing a higher education.
Thankfully, “Screwdriving” Is Still Largely Hypothetical
Although people have claimed to locate their neighbors’ sex toys through Bluetooth pairings and other wireless connections, the conversations around “screwdriving” are still largely based in hypothetical crimes and sexual assault. So far.
Still, this conversation is worth having. Technology continues to connect us to our wireless devices in increasingly intimate ways, but we can still become connected to other people within our networks.
Stealing a neighbor’s wifi or messing with their music is one thing, but invading their privacy and digitally peeping into their sex life is another. Before you pull a harmless “prank,” stop and think about the potential legal consequences of your actions.
If you find yourself in trouble for what seemed like some harmless hacking, reach out to a lawyer immediately. The first cases of virtual and long-distance sexual assault will be hard to navigate, but crucial to fight. You will need an experienced team willing to craft the strongest possible defense strategy and potentially set a precedent for future cases involving new technology and the invasion of privacy.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).