Sexting involves sending sexually explicit images or messages via cell phone. Throughout the nation, sexting is legal when it is done between two consenting adults. But in California, when it involves the sharing of sexually explicit pictures depicting minors or adults who have not consented to have the images taken or shared, then the act is a crime. California laws against sexting crimes vary based on the specific offense and may result in misdemeanor or felony charges. Either way, contact a lawyer immediately if you have been charged with a crime related to sexting.
Sexting With a Minor Charges
If a sexting session involves the sharing of nude or sexually explicit images or videos depicting a minor, then those involved could face child pornography charges. The recipient could be charged with possession of child pornography, while the sender can be charged with creation and distribution. Even if the sender or receiver was a minor, charges can still be filed as sharing images depicting someone under 18 is illegal, regardless of the defendant’s age.
Even if no images or videos are shared, anyone who sends sexually explicit messages to someone under 18 can be charged with sending harmful matter with the intent of seducing a minor, California Penal Code section 288.2 (PC). This charge can also be filed if an adult sends sexually explicit images or videos to a minor.
If the adult tries to get the child to meet them in person for the purpose of engaging in sex acts, they can also face charges for soliciting sex with a minor. If any sexual activities occurred, they may also be charged with statutory rape or lewd acts with a child.
A defendant could be charged with all of these crimes, depending on the situation. If you have any questions about the specific charges you could face for sexting a juvenile, your attorney can help clarify things for you.
Is Sexting a Minor a Felony?
Some of these crimes are misdemeanors, others are felonies, and some can be charged as either, based on the circumstances and the prosecutor handling the case. Convictions can result in lengthy prison sentences, formal probation, massive fines, and mandatory registration as a sex offender.
Criminal Invasion of Privacy and Revenge Porn
When it comes to sexually explicit messages between adults, these are legal overall. But you can violate the sexting laws of California if you send sexual images or videos without consent. If the content depicts someone who did not consent to the image being sent, you can be charged with criminal invasion of privacy under California Penal Code section 647(j) (PC).
Even if the individual depicted consented to their image or video being recorded though, it is still a crime to share this type of content in a sext without their consent under the state’s revenge porn law, under California Penal Code section 647(j)(4) (PC).
Both of these crimes are misdemeanors, punishable by up to 6 months of jail time and a fine of $1,000. The good news is that neither offense requires registration as a sex offender. Even so, because you can face one charge per image or video you share in a sext without consent, speak with a defense attorney as soon as possible if you have been accused of this crime.
Fighting the Allegations
Sending harmful content with the intent of seducing a minor almost always applies to sexting. For you to be convicted of this crime, the prosecution must be able to prove that you intentionally sent obscene images to a minor with the intent of arousing lust in yourself or the minor with the ultimate intention of seducing them. It can be difficult for the prosecuting attorney to prove all of these facets of the charge, especially if you have a skilled defense lawyer fighting for your innocence.
It’s important to note that just because someone is a minor doesn’t mean they can’t be charged with these crimes. Additionally, arguing that you didn’t know the other party was under 18 is not a defense to many offenses, though soliciting sex with a minor requires you to have believed the individual was underage. Attempting to defend yourself by either pointing out that you are a minor or that you thought the other person was an adult can often be used as evidence against you, which is why you should insist on speaking with your lawyer before you speak with the police.
These charges rely on evidence on your phone and data records. Do not consent to a search of your phone if the police seize it. Do not give your password to the police. Insist they obtain a warrant before searching your phone. If your rights were violated in a sexting case, your lawyer may be able to have the charges dropped.
If you have been accused of sexting with a minor or sending explicit images or videos without consent, Peter Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.