Sexting is a crime that largely affects teens, but can also create legal trouble for adults. Digital photo technology is still a relatively new technology in mobile phones. Therefore, state and federal legislatures and law enforcement agencies have embarked on a very new effort to curb crimes that have emerged as a result of the new technology. Florida is one of many states that introduced sexting laws, and laws and court rulings around the country are still developing the ways in which sexting offenses may be handled now and in the future. If your child has been accused of this crime in Naples or Broward County, contact a Fort Lauderdale sexting lawyer to begin putting together a solid defense for your son or daughter.
Sexting and federal law
Congress has yet to enact a federal law that deals directly with sexting. However, the act of exchanging explicit photos by phone may sometimes fall under existing federal law. The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children (PROTECT) Act of 2003 prohibits the production, distribution, receipt, and possession with intent to distribute any obscene visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Knowingly possessing the material without the intent to distribute it is also prohibited under the act.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Other federal laws under this crime may be prosecuted
Federal statutes also prohibit other behaviors that indirectly include sexting. It is federally prohibited to use a computer to ship, transport, receive, reproduce, or distribute a depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct or any other material that constitutes child pornography. Adults may also be prosecuted in federal court for causing a minor to participate in sexual conduct for the purpose of visually depicting the conduct. Furthermore, Fort Lauderdale parents who allow their minor children to be depicted in a sexual manner may be prosecuted. Adults who are sentenced under federal law for engaging in a sexting that amounts to the equivalent of a federal child pornography offense may be ordered to pay more than $5,000 in fines and/or sentenced to more than five years in federal prison. While the sentence may seem light in comparison to the crime, child pornography charges are sentenced separately according to each count. Therefore, a person in Broward County who exchanges 100 images that depict a minor engaging in sexually explicit behavior may be sentenced separately on 100 counts if convicted on each one.
Federal revenge porn law
While consenting adults may see no issue with exchanging sexual depictions of themselves with another receptive adult, sending sexually explicit messages without consent crosses the line of illegality and may constitute harassment. Another new pattern that has emerged from the increased popularity of sexting is revenge porn, harassment that involves an ex-lover or hacker posting or sending sexual photos of another person against the will of the person who is depicted. Most states and Washington D.C. have already enacted laws that prohibit revenge porn. Congress has also taken steps to consider passing a federal revenge porn statute.
Charges against teens
The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act calls for teens to be prosecuted in the state court system. Therefore, it is very unlikely for a minor to face federal charges for sexting. Nevertheless, sexting presents a new area of law; therefore, it is impossible to predict with 100 percent certainty that no teen sexting case will ever be introduced in federal court. Teens may be charged under state sexting laws for exchanging sexually explicit images with other minors who are under the age of 18. Most states that have teen sexting laws make the crime a misdemeanor offense. However, in some cases, teens may be charged with a child pornography-related felony under state law as they would be if they were eligible to be prosecuted in federal court. Sentencing for teens also varies widely as cases that are prosecuted in juvenile court are subject to more flexibility due to the nature of the venue. Juvenile court sentences may include:
- a warning
- fines starting at $60 for first time offenders
- community service
“I didn’t know their age” isn’t an acceptable defense
Adults and minors may find themselves facing charges as a result of exchanging sexually explicit text messages. Parents should monitor teenagers’ phone usage and have serious discussions about the very real possibility of facing criminal charges as a result of exchanging sexually explicit images. People who are over the age of 18 should exercise caution and verify the age of anyone with whom they wish to exchange sexually-themed text messages if there is even a remote possibility the person may be under the age of 18. Adults should always avoid sending sexual images without express consent. It is always better to be safe than sorry. In situations where sexting results in criminal charges, the first step is to call a Florida sexting defense lawyer.
What to expect when contacting a sex crimes attorney
Most people who are charged with sexting in Broward County immediately fear for their reputation as well as their academic and professional future. An experienced Naples or Fort Lauderdale sexting defense lawyer can help defendants avoid unnecessary damage to their reputation and defend themselves against the charges. Upon contacting a Florida sexting case attorney, a member of the law firm’s staff will conduct a confidential, free case evaluation. Next, the lawyer will follow up to help the individual explain he legal implications of his or her sexting case and to offer counsel regarding potential legal options. No one should attempt to handle a sexting case without the benefit of a respected federal defense attorney who has a thorough understanding of this newly developing area of law.