It baffles us that former Mount View Junior High School science teacher Michael Douglas was cleared on a total of four charges of possession of explicit materials depicting children.

An outdated law allowed him to walk away from the courthouse a free man, despite the fact that he had admitted — both to police and to his own attorney — to viewing illegal child pornography.

Two of the four charges originated in Waldo County, while the other two originated in Kennebec County. The Waldo County charges stemmed from images depicting children engaged in sexual acts that were located on Douglas’ school-issued laptop.

Douglas was cleared on those two charges almost immediately after the state presented its case, because — as argued by Douglas’ defense attorney, Walter McKee — there was no way of knowing whether he viewed those images while he had the laptop at his Augusta residence (in Kennebec County) or while he was working at school (in Waldo County).

“People don’t know that,” McKee told us, and he’s right, we don’t know. It’s likely only Michael Douglas knows that.

The other charges were a different matter, though. Those two charges, out of Kennebec County, related to images police located on Douglas’ home computer. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty on both of those charges, and, as frustrating as it is to us to say it, they probably reached the correct decision, based on the way the law is written.

Which is exactly what’s wrong with this situation.

According to both Deputy District Attorney Eric Walker and McKee, the jury found that while Douglas did in fact view the images, there was no evidence suggesting that Douglas was ever in possession — as specifically defined by the Maine state law used in cases such as this — of the images.

Current state law says that in order to be “in possession” of these types of materials, the user must have “authority, dominion or control” over the materials in question.

The not-guilty verdict, then, means there was no electronic evidence proving that Douglas distributed the materials, and Douglas apparently never saved the images to an allocated place on his computer, or to DVDs, CDs or a thumb drive. There was no evidence to show that Douglas ever so much as printed out an image.

To recap: Douglas admitted to police, and even to his own attorney, that he had knowingly viewed illegal child pornography in the past. But because there was no record that he ever saved any of the materials he viewed, he was judged not guilty of possessing them.

But how, we ask, is viewing a pornographic image of a child any less unsettling than possessing it? The fact that Douglas was once a teacher here in Waldo County, interacting with local youngsters on a daily basis, makes all of this the more disturbing.

In the wake of the jury’s decision, Walker said the way the state law reads now does not take into account the technology that is available to people these days, and that must change. He’s absolutely right. We hope this case prompts a re-examination of the existing statute, before many more people realize there is a loophole that lets them do what Douglas did without the state’s being able to convict them.

After all, we believe a person who would willingly view such images — even if they don’t “possess” them, as currently defined by Maine law — has helped perpetuate the damage that is done to the children who are featured in such materials.

This is something that Maine people should never tolerate, and we hope this case serves as a jumping-off point for lawmakers to start a discussion about upgrading the law. The time to act is now.