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Is Sexting Illegal in Texas?

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In recent years, sexting has emerged as a cultural phenomenon with the potential for societal and personal consequences. The widespread availability of cell phones has played a part in the increasing frequency of sexting cases. As cell phones and other communication technology have become cheaper and more powerful, criminal cases involving cell phones have become more commonplace.

Several states, including Texas, have recently passed new laws regarding how sexting cases should be handled by the courts. In part, these new laws change the way in which some sexting offenses are penalized. However, sexting cases still have the possibility of serious legal punishments.

What is Sexting?

The commonly accepted definition of sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages, videos or photos, usually via cell phones. While it is possible for adults to engage in sexting, criminal cases involving sexually explicit text messages focus on minors who engage in such activity. For this reason, sexting is sometimes referred to as “juvenile cyber-sex.”

Sexting laws are designed to prevent abuse or exploitation of minors by adults. If minors send sexually explicit messages, photos or videos to adults, the minors’ safety, privacy and future may be compromised.

Penalties for Sexting

Recently, the state of Texas amended its laws regarding sexting offenses. In September of 2011, Texas passed a new law that allowed prosecutors to seek different punishments in certain sexting cases. Prior to the change, anyone convicted of a sexting offense could face a felony charge of child pornography. A conviction for this crime could mean prison time and lifelong registration as a sex offender.

The new law allows for more leeway in sexting cases that meet certain criteria. For example, a minor who is caught sending sexually explicit messages to another minor may be charged with a less serious sexual offense than child pornography. This means that if an underage person sends an explicit text to their boyfriend or girlfriend, they may not face the same penalties as an adult who sends explicit messages to a minor.

Under the new law, minors convicted of sexting can face:

  • A Class C Misdemeanor charge.
  • Up to $4000 in fines.
  • Up to one year in county jail.
  • Mandatory participation in an educational program designed to explain the dangers of sexting and how to prevent abuse or exploitation of minors by adults.

In summation, sexting is still definitely illegal in Texas. This is especially true for cases involving a minor sexting with an adult. Also, a minor convicted of repeated sexting offenses with another minor can face felony charges for subsequent offenses.

The best way to understand the new laws is to consult with an experienced attorney.

For more information, contact attorney Brett Podolsky at 713.227.0087.

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