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Is Sexting a Crime?

Alec Rose Law Office June 14, 2022

There’s almost no one alive these days who doesn’t have a cell phone and who doesn’t text. We’ve grown accustomed to texting not just with words but also with pictures and videos. We regularly communicate with our family, coworkers, friends, and significant others about all aspects of life. But what happens when these images become inappropriate or even illegal?

Many people are rightfully concerned about the rise in sexting, especially when it comes to young people. According to a poll taken by the Cyberbullying Research Center in 2019, over 21% of youth aged 12 to 17 have received a sext from someone. Sending and receiving explicit photos and other forms of sexting can be incredibly dangerous and you need to know how the surrounding laws may affect you. If you’re facing accusations of a sexting crime and are in the Los Angeles area, call me at the Law Office of Alec Rose PC. I’m able to serve clients throughout the area including Santa Barbara, Ventura, Orange, San Diego, and the rest of California. 

What is Sexting?

Sexting is a relatively new concept in society and refers to sending any sexually explicit photo or video through a digital device such as a cell phone or tablet. Sexting itself is not considered an illegal act, and if it occurs between two consenting adults, it is lawful. However, this simple act can turn into a crime if the recipient is a minor or if the recipient has not given permission to send or receive the content. What makes these cases even more complicated is that once the image is sent to the other person, you have no more control over it and it may be used in ways you did not intend. 

Sexting as a Crime

Because sexting is so new, each state has had to respond by crafting its own laws to try to prevent criminal activity from taking place. California has enacted a number of laws to this effect. The state has laid out two main conditions in which sexting would be considered a criminal act: sexting without consent and sexting with a minor. The first scenario could happen between two adults, but if one of them does not consent to the activity, it could be considered harassment or stalking. This is why it’s extremely important to gain—and maintain—consent if you send such content. And if the recipient tells you to stop, you must do so immediately or you could face consequences. Additionally, if you are exchanging sexts with a romantic partner whom you later break up with, they may use your text messages as “revenge porn.”

Sexting can also easily become a crime when it involves minors, which in California is anyone under the age of 17. This can happen if an adult sends a sexually explicit text to a minor or receives a sexually explicit text from a minor. Even if you were not the original recipient, you can still face criminal charges if you’re found in possession of this as it could be considered child pornography. 

Possible Penalties 

The possible penalties you’ll face for a sexting crime will vary depending on your circumstances and whether you have any prior convictions. For example, California has a specific “revenge porn” law that can lead to jail time and fines for anyone who shares explicit photos with other people without consent. When the sexting involves a minor, however, the penalties can become more extreme, which is why you need an experienced criminal defense attorney working on your behalf. Many of these cases can be tried as either a misdemeanor or felony, with more serious cases resulting in state prison time, fines, probation, and sex-offender registration. Additionally, even in cases where the participants were only 16 or 17 years old, they may be tried as an adult instead of a juvenile. 

Possible Defenses 

No two defenses of a sexting crime will be the same since no two cases are the same. However, there are a few defenses that I might examine as your attorney. In some cases, we can argue that the photos or videos weren’t actually sexually explicit as defined by law and that the charges were blown out of proportion. In other instances, we may be able to argue that the evidence was seized illegally, violating your right to privacy. If the case involved sexting a minor, we may also be able to argue that you legitimately believed the recipient was of age.

Get Reliable Representation Today

If you’re in the Los Angeles, California area and are concerned about a sexting charge, please reach out to me at the Alec Rose Law Office. With over 25 years of experience, I will vigorously defend your rights and ensure your voice is heard. Just because you’ve been arrested for a crime doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted, and the best thing you can do to improve your chances is set up a one-on-one case consultation.