For teens, sexting may lead to criminal charges

Today's teenagers and young adults have grown up during the Internet and mobile age. For these youths, communicating and sharing photos via the Internet and cellphones has become second-nature. However, when it comes to sharing images that are considered to be sexually-explicit in nature, the potential social, academic and legal consequences can be severe. 

Teens who choose to take nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves or others and share those photos via a cellphone or the Internet may face criminal charges related to child pornography. 

Child pornography laws are among some of the harshest of all sex crimes laws and typically result in those individuals convicted spending time in prison and being forced to register as sex offenders. In some cases, a juvenile who shares or receives sexually-explicit photos may face child pornography charges. This may be true even if the photos are selfies and are voluntarily shared with another individual who is under the age of 18. 

In cases involving juveniles and sexting, it's important to take criminal charges seriously and retain a criminal defense attorney. In these types of cases, numerous questions must be investigated, determined and taken into account including:

  • Was the photo a selfie?
  • Was the photo taken and sent voluntarily?
  • Was the photo subsequently shared with others?
  • How old was the sender and the recipient?
  • What was the relationship between the sender and recipient? 
  • Who owned the computer or mobile device from which the photo was sent and subsequently received? 

Teenagers often lack the capacity to understand the consequences of their actions. Unfortunately, today's virtual world and the ease with which photos can be shared don't' account for errors in judgment and the consequences can be harsh.

Source: FBI, "Sexting: Risky Actions and Overreactions," Art Boweker, M.A., Michael Sullivan, J.D., July 2010

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