In its various forms, sexting is the transmission of nude images or suggestive material via text messages. Such transmission can be textual or image-based and typically occurs via cell phones, smart phones, computers, etc. However, it is typically the latter, image-based transmission of nude, partially nude, and/or suggestive pictures of individuals, sometimes minors, that can potentially lead to criminal consequences.
Few criminal laws directly address sexting, at least as far as that term is used. Perhaps for that reason, however, when sexting involves pictures of minors it can run afoul of child pornography laws. Child porn production and distribution laws are some of the harshest felonies in the books, and when minors get caught up in these types of charges it can have very serious, long-lasting consequences.
Although many suggest that child porn laws should not be applied to sexting and related conduct by minors, sexting involving images of naked minors technically can fall within the broad reach of child pornography laws. As a result, it may be left to the discretion of prosecutors whether to bring such charges or not.
As this issue has gained more attention in the media and by lawmakers, some legislation has been proposed to more specifically address sexting. The approaches, however, vary widely. Some legislators and local authorities take a hard-line approach to sexting and may prosecute individuals sending or receiving nude or partial nude images of minors as discussed above, using existing child pornography laws. Other jurisdictions may attempt to use probation or other diversionary methods to educate and give minors a second chance. And some jurisdictions take the reverse approach and have considered specifically de-criminalizing sexting when done by minors and distributed amongst minors. Here is brief overview of state sexting and revenge porn laws.
The bottom line, however, is that the laws in this area are generally either non-existent, or rapidly evolving. For the specific laws that may apply to sexting in your jurisdiction, it may be best to contact a local criminal defense attorney.
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As you can see, what you may think is a harmless text to a friend can turn into the basis for criminal charges, especially if minors are involved. As the article notes, there are different approaches by prosecutors depending on where you live. To learn more about how sexting crimes are prosecuted in your area or to defend yourself against sexting charges, reach out to a criminal defense attorney in your area who can provide a free consultation.