When Is Sexting Illegal?

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What Is "Sexting"?

"Sexting" is a term coined for the act of sending lewd pictures or messages via text message, computer, laptop, tablet, and other electronic devices. It usually involves the sending of nude pictures of oneself, though the term generally refers to the sending of all types of explicit images or videos. The phrase comes from the combination of the words "sex" and "texting".

Recent concerns about sexting have highlighted several risks associated with the practice including. For instance, such images can often end up being distributed without the person’s permission. Among younger persons, this has often been a source of other issues like cyberbullying, stalking, and harassment. In addition, legal consequences can sometimes result from the act of texting.

When Is Sexting Illegal?

Sexting becomes a legal problem mainly when underage persons send pictures of themselves or of other underage persons. If these images end up in the possession of an older person who is above the age of majority (usually 18 years old), that person could end up with child pornography charges. There is some debate as to whether sexting between two consensual minors would be considered possession of child pornography.

As mentioned, illegal sexting is also linked to cases of harassment, stalking, and bullying. In some cases, sexted messages were linked to suicide cases after a person’s images were distributed without their consent. In other cases, adults have been charged with child molestation and harassment for sending pictures of themselves to minors.

Are There Any Penalties for Illegal Sexting Charges?

Since sexting is such a new phenomenon, states have different laws regarding sexting. In most states, the act of sending illicit pictures involving a minor will result in felony charges. These are punishable by severe criminal fines and at least one year in a state prison.

Some states such as Vermont and Connecticut are lobbying to have the charges reduced to a Class A misdemeanor if the act only involves an exchange of pictures between two consenting minors. Penalties for misdemeanors include smaller criminal fines and up to a year in jail. In many states, sexting remains a felony if there is no consent of the parties involved.

Regardless of individual state laws, sexting is discouraged as it is considered highly inappropriate conduct, and will generally be met with legal penalties

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Sexting Charge?

Sexting laws are very new and are very different from state to state. They are also constantly under revision as more cases emerge and as the different technologies continue to evolve. You may wish to hire a lawyer if you need advice on sexting or other similar issues. Your attorney can provide you with clarification for any questions you have, and can provide legal advice for you. Also, if you need to file a lawsuit, your attorney can represent you or your loved ones in court.

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Last Modified: 11-20-2013 03:23 PM PST

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