STORM LAKE, Iowa -- An Iowa law that allows authorities to arrest juveniles who text or email naked photos of themselves is designed to teach youngsters about the dangers of sending inappropriate images.

Buena Vista County District Attorney Dave Patton said juveniles arrested for sending nude photos of themselves don't understand that those images will survive forever once online.

Arresting juveniles, who are legally considered perpetrators and victims simultaneously, appears harsh but allows the court to relay the danger, Patton said. The cases are sealed and do not usually result in a criminal record.

Most juvenile cases are disposed of with probation and court monitoring, but a juvenile could be placed on the state's sex offender list in a severe case, Patton said.

"What I would hope everyone realizes is that it's real stupid to be sending nude photos," Patton said. "It could be permanent. If you send photos to a boyfriend and he gets mad when you break up, they could end up online."

Three juveniles between the ages of 16 and 17 were charged with felony exploitation of a minor for texting or emailing nude photos of themselves to a 19-year-old Storm Lake man, Alex Case, in February. Case is charged with misdemeanor sexual exploitation of a minor.

The cases are awaiting resolution.

Patton said state law is written in such a way that sending nude pictures is considered a greater offense than possessing the images.

Buena Vista County Sheriff Gary Launderville said on April 10 that his office has dealt with similar cases in the past. Investigators relied on the court system to figure out the appropriate way to dispose of any charges filed in those cases.

Launderville added that the law is weird in that it allows for the teenagers to be treated as both victims and defendants but added the goal is to dissuade them from disseminating child pornography.

Patton said he was not aware of any prior cases and declined to comment on specific details of the pending cases.