What Is sexting?
Sexting can also create major problems if the explicit pictures are obtained by other persons without the sender’s consent, such as an older person or a registered sex offender. Sexting is a relatively recent development, so the laws governing it are sometimes still in development and may vary from state to state.
What states are prosecuting sexting charges?
Many states impose criminal penalties for sexting. This is usually done under the umbrella of child pornography laws. Sexting is specifically illegal in several states, and at least 20 others are considering criminalizing the act. Some states that are known to prosecute for sexting charges include Indiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming.
What types of sentencing are involved in sexting charges?
Depending on the jurisdiction’s sexting laws, sexting can result in either felony or misdemeanor criminal charges. Sentencing for felony charges can result in heavy fines from $500-$1,000 and/or a prison sentence of at least one year. Misdemeanor charges result in fines of hundreds of dollars and/or one year maximum in jail.
Again, the main concern in sexting sentences is whether child pornography laws apply. Such laws are where the state derives their authority to impose felony charges for the act of sexting. Child pornography charges in a sexting context can also result in the defendant being placed on a registered sex offender list. In some states even minors have been placed on such lists as a result of sexting charges.
Are there any defenses to sexting charges?
In most instances the best defense to sexting charges is that of consent. If both parties consented to the sext messages, then they may possibly face misdemeanor charges rather than felony charges.
Additionally, there is a growing legislative movement to do away with felony charges for sexting. Teens engaging in consensual sexting would only receive misdemeanor charges. Many states are now implementing these changes. However, felony charges will remain in place for adults who engage in sexting and for teens who engage in sexting without the other person’s consent. Be sure to double-check with an attorney or your local municipality for the details of your jurisdiction’s sexting laws and for possible defenses.
What should I do if my child is engaged in sexting?
Parents who are concerned about whether their children are engaged in sexting should discuss with them the dangers involved in such practices. Sexting has led to incidents of abuse and can often cause major damage to the teen’s reputation and social life. As mentioned, sext messages can easily be distributed to a large group of people or classmates.
Parents should also inform their children of the severe legal consequences associated with sexting. In general, parents will not be held liable for children who choose to send sext messages. However, the parent may become liable for other issues such as negligence or child neglect. This can happen if they know that their child is in a precarious situation and yet fail to take measures to report or prevent the wrongdoing.
Finally, as a response to the phenomenon of sexting, many states are now offering educational programs intended to alert teens to the dangers of sexting. A number of school districts also currently include a discussion of sexting as part of their sex education curriculum. As a preventative measure, concerned parents can direct their children to such programs.
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Last Modified: 11-20-2013 03:40 PM PST
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