Sexting has been outlawed when dealing with anyone under eighteen. The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of 2003 has been used to criminalize sexting with anyone under eighteen in sending, receiving, distributing, copying and performing other related activities to child pornography. When pictures of naked children under the age of eighteen are sent to anyone including anyone of the same age, a crime may have occurred through federal law.
Sexting: A Growing Issue
Around the country, various teens have started sending these naked pictures of themselves to others. In many situations, these are sent to significant others. Some teens date individuals that are over eighteen and send these pictures not knowing they are breaking federal law and possibly various laws in the state they reside. In many cases, the pictures they send are forwarded to others and at the point the picture is sent, there is no way to stop it from being shared with anyone in the world. Some of the pictures are used for dark purposes, some to humiliate, some as a joke and others for various reasons for or against the person that sent them.
As technology grows, the practice of sending naked photos or video has become an issue laws needed to catch up to. With no time needed to develop pictures, these teens may send them immediately after they are taken. The sending of provocative photos is growing as more phones are being equipped with detailed and technologically advanced cameras.
One survey explained that over 20 percent of teen females and over 15 percent of teen males have admitted to sending or receiving semi-nude or completely nude photos or video media. The survey was commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy to determine how sexting affects those in higher categories of having sex before marriage. Unfortunately, the act of sending, receiving or posting these photos is illegal no matter if the laws are known to these teens.
Sexting and Legal Issues
State laws throughout the United States and federal laws are often broken when sexting messages are exchanged. Because electronic transmissions are deemed interstate commerce, the federal level has jurisdiction over these crimes as well as any state laws applicable to the case. Distribution and possession of child pornography is applied to these cases with all potential penalties. With federal law broken in this manner, a sentence of five to up to fifteen years in federal prison is a possible outcome of these actions. Extensive fines and other penalties such as sex offender registration are all possible as well. For first time offenders and when age is a factor, some sentences may be decreased regarding these crimes. However, harshness and severity are determined and applied to cases which may have negative impacts on sentencing guidelines.
Some states have deemed a child of sixteen to be an adult for the purposes of evaluating whether sexting is criminalized. When this is the case and messages with sexually explicit material are sent or received with these individuals and others who are younger, the laws created to protect them are not being used to invoke potential sentences of prison time. Conviction of law violations may result in life-long penalties depending upon the state and federal charges issued.
When a crime of sexual exploitation of a minor has been charged to someone involved in sexting in a state that has such laws, sex offender registration may be required. This registration may last the entirety of the person’s life, or it may only last a few years. However, any additional convictions of similar crimes usually cause the registration to become permanent along with additional penalties.
The problem of sexting involves teenage individuals and other teenagers or adults. When sexually graphic images or video are exchanged, the material may be used by a sexual predator. Through this activity, the visual depictions may be used to lure others. Further crimes may be committed because these images or video were shared outside the confines the person originally intended. Obtaining a lawyer and building a case to protect those sharing and exchanging this material is vital. A criminal defense lawyer who practices law for state-side crimes and federal crimes may be needed to mitigate penalties and to build a defense.