The Rise of Teen Sexting: The Fine Line Between Flirting and Pornography

In this day and age, technology poses a larger threat to American's youth than it ever did before.  Teenagers have access to technology in new ways; the number of cell phones owned by teenagers has only increased in the last ten years. New dangers not previously anticipated have been created, including teenagers and young adults sexting each other without knowing the consequences.

If you are in threat of being charged with a crime related to sexting underage photos or receiving underage pictures that could be classified as pornography, hiring a sex crime attorney immediately is a must.  Properly represented, your sex crime attorney may be able to successfully defend your case or make a deal with the district attorney.

What is "Sexting"?

While "sexting" is a taboo topic in our culture, it nevertheless occurs more often than many are aware of. Sexting often takes place while at work, at family functions, and even in classrooms.  Before we go further, it is important to understand exactly what we mean by "sexting" in the first place.  

An experienced sex crime attorney will tell you that sexting includes receiving or sending nude or sexually suggestive material through texting, SnapChat, direct messaging, e-mail, or any other technological way using a mobile device or piece of technology.  

The most referenced case that deals with teens that engaged in sexting and suffered the consequences involve students at Nixa Junior High in Missouri.  In April 2017, dozens of students cell phones were confiscated by the police due to the probable cause the police had that child pornography was being shared between students.

This is still an ongoing investigation, however, there are claims that many students around twelve years of age were sending and receiving nude photos of other classmates.  This is a clear violation of the 2009 Missouri law passed against distribution and receiving child pornography.

Consequences of Sexting as a Minor and with a Minor

As previously mentioned, in 2009 Missouri passed a child pornography law, that sex crime attorneys are well versed in, makes it a crime for any minor who distributes or possess explicit photos of a minor in sexually compromised positions, be guilty of a felony, and have to register as a sex offender.

Currently, the sentencing guidelines are as follows:

First Offense: Misdemeanor, subject to 1 year in jail and $1,000 in fines
Second Time Committing Crime: Felony, subject to 4 years in prison and $5,000 in fines; the current law does not require the offender to register unless they are an adult caught with pictures of minors
Age of Victim
If the victim is under 14 years old then the sentencing is much harsher and the victim is considered a child. If the victim is between the ages of 14 – 17 years old, they are classified as minors.  However, if a 17-year-old receives a pornographic image of a minor they could be tried as an adult. If a 16-year-old sends a sexually explicit photo to her 17-year-old boyfriend, both could be guilty of distributing and possessing child pornography.

Federal Consequences for Sexting

Besides state sentencing, child pornography is taken very seriously in this country.  Having a skilled and experienced sex crime attorney on your side is crucial if you are charged with distribution or possession of child pornography.

Under the federal system, there are two major statutes that enforce the penalties of child pornography.  The first one was enacted in 2003 titled the PROTECT Act.  Simple possession of child pornography without any intent to distribute is enough to charge someone.  Your sex crime attorney will be able to work with you on disproving actual possession if that is the case.

The newest bill passed in 2017 is titled Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act.  This statute makes it a crime for having knowledge of child pornographic content or live transmission of a minor engaged in the sexually explicit conduct.  The first offense under this law has a sentencing guideline of a prison term from 15 – 30 years.

Know Your Options

It is important to discuss any information that you may think relates to the topics discussed in this article to a sex crime attorney.  You may be able to prevent charges from being filed or remove yourself from situations that could make you guilty of a crime.  

Many minors and adults do not realize the risk involved in sending sexually suggestive pictures back and forth, however, it can create a world of trouble.  If you are arrested, charged, or think you may have committed any actions that were discussed it is best to contact a sex crime attorney immediately regardless if you think you committed a crime or were a victim to a crime.

If you are arrested, never answer questions before an attorney is present, do not give consent to search any electronics or reveal any passwords to your electronics. This is what your sex crime attorney is for, to protect your rights and ensure a fair investigation. Your best resource will always be your sex crime attorney that will always be your biggest support.

Request a appointment here: or call Dean Price Law at (417) 865-2181 for an appointment in our Springfield office.

NOTE: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.