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While teen sexting continues to increase in prevalence, many teens are unaware of the potential legal consequences of these acts. One step in helping to prevent these activities is appropriate education on the seriousness of these situations. While there are many areas to educate teens and other young people about on this topic, the focus of this article is on the potential criminal law consequences.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, “sexting” is generally defined as sending nude, partially nude, or otherwise sexually explicit images, videos, or messages to another person via a cellphone or similar device.
Criminal law issues can arise in sexting situations when the sexting involves individuals under the age of eighteen, either as the subject of the image, the sender of the image, or the recipient. They can also arise when an individual requests these types of images from an individual under the age of eighteen. There are a number of different criminal offenses that could be charged out of these circumstances, but the most common is Sexual Exploitation of Children.
The most common way that teens and young adults violate this law is to:
– “persuade, induce, entice, or coerce” someone under the age of eighteen to engage in sexually explicit conduct, which is defined by the law, for the purpose of producing any visual medium, such as images or film, depicting such conduct;
– “create, reproduce, publish, promote, sell, distribute, give, exhibit, or possess with intent to sell or distribute any visual medium,” such as images or film, “which depicts a minor or a portion of a minor’s body engaged in any sexually explicit conduct;”
– “possess or control any materials which depicts a minor or a portion of a minor’s body engaged in any sexually explicit conduct.”
The easiest way to make sure to avoid committing one of these crimes is not to ask for, take, send, or receive any nude or partially nude images of anyone under the age of eighteen, even if they are your friend or significant other. Note that it does not matter if the individuals are the same age or not, it is still a crime if they are under eighteen. It also does not matter that the person whose image or video it is willingly took or transmitted the image or video.
Depending on the ages, types of images, and other factors, these types of offenses can have penalties ranging from a felony conviction with up to twenty years in prison and registering as a sex offender for the rest of a person’s life to misdemeanors, which can also remain on a person’s record for the rest of his or her life. The age exception that allows the case to be a misdemeanor may not apply if the person who has the images or videos distributes them.
If the potential criminal record and incarceration were not enough to convince a young person not to be involved in this behavior, the potential ramifications of being a registered sex offender should. These include things like not residing within 100 feet of any child care facility, church, or area where minors congregate, which includes: “all public and private parks and recreation facilities, playgrounds, skating rinks, neighborhood centers, gymnasiums, school bus stops, public libraries, and public and community swimming pool.” In addition to these residency restrictions, there are also restrictions on the types and locations of employment. These types of restrictions alone can have harsh impacts on a person’s life, creating significant challenges finding a place to live or work.
These types of situations should not be taken lightly. Education about the seriousness and potential impacts that these situations can have on a young person’s life should be the first line of defense in preventing young people from falling in to the criminal justice system through the violation of these types of laws.
If faced with an investigation or charge for these types of behaviors, it is important to obtain a qualified criminal defense firm that has experience in handling these types of cases. The potential ramifications are too great to not take these situations seriously.