Is It Possible that My Child Will Be Charged with a Crime If Caught Sexting?
While some states have laws that specific address sexting between teens or other minors, as a general rule teens who share nude or sexually suggestive photos of each other can be charged with child pornography and child enticement laws. Even though these crimes are intended to target adult sexual predators, sexting between teens falls within the definitions of these crimes; conviction for one of these offenses can carry severe penalties and life-long consequences.
What Is Sexting?
Sexting is the practice of sending nude or sexually suggestive or explicit photos by electronic means, usually via text. Although adult couples do engage in sexting, sexting is also prevalent among teens who may not realize the legal consequences of sending nude or suggestive photos of themselves or their friends to others.
Consequences of Sexting between Teens
Teens who engage in sexting may not realize the consequences of their actions. There is of course the legal consequences of sexting between teens — since teens are minors, a nude or sexually explicit or suggestive photos of themselves or another friend constitutes child pornography, meaning that possessing or sending the photos may constitute criminal possession or distribution of child pornography.
In addition, sexting can lead to personal consequences. Images that were intended to be private may end up being widely distributed, causing distress and damage to a teen’s reputation, especially if the photos end up on the internet where they may become nearly impossible to remove.
New Jersey’s Sexting Diversion Program
Although some states treat sexting between teens as a case of child pornography or enticement, New Jersey recognizes that those criminal offenses were not intended to punish teens who may be engaged in flirting or a romantic relationship. As a result, New Jersey has a diversionary program, in lieu of criminal prosecution, for minors who are charged with child pornography offenses as a result of sexting.
Under the program, a minor who creates, exhibits, and/or distributes images that qualify as child pornography will be ordered to participate in educational programs or counseling aimed at educating the minor about the consequences of sexting. Successful completion of the diversionary program can allow a minor to avoid juvenile and criminal prosecution or an arrest or conviction record.
Criminal Penalties for Sexting between Teens
However, in cases where teens demonstrate a greater level of criminal culpability, such as taking a nude photo of a fellow teen and distributing it without their consent, the courts may decide to proceed with criminal prosecution. Criminal penalties for sexting can include:
- Possession of child pornography: Five to ten years’ incarceration and up to a $15,000 fine
- Possession of child pornography with intent to distribute: 10 to 20 years’ incarceration and up to $150,000 in fines
- Promoting obscene material to children: Five to ten years’ incarceration and up to a $15,000 fine
Fortunately, courts have discretion whether to prosecute teens for these offenses in juvenile court or adult criminal court.
Teens who are convicted of or adjudicated delinquent for creating or distributing child pornography must also register as a sex offender, unless sexting occurred with the consent of all parties involved and the creator and subject of the image were under 18.
Contact an Experienced Cherry Hill Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Sexting Charges in New Jersey
Was your child arrested or charged with sexting in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at Gelman Law, LLC have successfully represented clients facing juvenile sexting charges in Camden County, Burlington County, Gloucester County, and throughout New Jersey. Call (856) 861-4236 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 1940 W. Rte. 70, Suite 4, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.