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Sexting Laws and Regulations

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Sexting Laws in Texas

The popularity of smart phones and texting allows people from all over Texas to stay in touch with friends and loved phones. Many people may send hundreds of even thousands of text messages each month to friends, co-workers and spouses or significant others. Just like most other communication technologies, text messaging is also very popular for dating, romance and sex.

The practice of sexting has become increasingly popular in recent years. This activity involves sending sexually explicit text messages, and sometimes explicit photos or videos, to potential partners. In some cases, this is a harmless way for couples to communicate. However, most young people now have access to smart phones and some are sending explicit messages. In some cases, this could be a violation of the law, especially if adults are exchanging messages with minors.

Before sending an explicit text message in Texas, it’s important to understand the laws regarding text messaging.

Texas Sexting Laws for Minors

In 2011, the Texas state government passed Senate Bill 407 which altered the way that some illegal sexting practices are handled by the justice system. Before the passage of this bill, a minor who sent or received sexually explicit images of themselves or other minors could be convicted of a felony child pornography charge and sentenced to prison and sex offender registration. Senate Bill 407 allowed Texas judges to assign less severe penalties for these kinds of crimes in certain cases.

In general, if a person sends, receives or possesses an image or video of a minor engaging in sexual conduct, that person can be held legally accountable for sexting. This is true even if the person is a minor who is sending a picture of himself or herself.

It is illegal for any person to exchange images or videos of minors that are sexually explicit in nature. A minor who is a first-time sexting offender could be convicted of a Class C misdemeanor for this offense.

Texas Sexting Laws for Adults

Senate Bill 407 was only intended to modify potential legal consequences for minors who engage in sexting. This was done to prevent young people who made a mistake from suffering a lifetime of consequences as a registered sex offender. However, the law is still extremely harsh on adults who exchange explicit messages with children.

In Texas, an adult who exchanges explicit images or videos with a minor by text messaging could be charged with the possession, promotion and distribution of child pornography. This is a felony crime that can lead to years in prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender.

Legal Penalties

A minor who is convicted for exchanging explicit images of themselves or other minors may face:

  • Conviction on a Class C misdemeanor charge
  • A fine of $500
  • Mandatory educational classes about sexual behavior

Repeat minor offenders could face up to 180 days in jail and higher fines. However, minors who are convicted of these offenses may be able to have their record expunged when they turn 18 and they may not have to register as a sex offender.

However, adults, who engage in sexting with minors can face felony charges. If convicted of promoting, possessing or distributing child pornography, a person could face:

  • Up to 20 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Mandatory registration as a sex offender for 10 years or lifetime registration

Legal Defenses

In some cases, minors who engage in sexting may have a legitimate defense to prosecution. If a case of sexting involves:

  • Two minors who exchanged explicit messages with one another
  • The images are only of the sender or the recipient
  • The sender and the recipient are in a dating relationship
  • The sender and the recipient are not more than two years apart in age

Adults who are charged with sexting offense can consult an attorney to construct a legal defense. An attorney might be able to present evidence which shows that the defendant did not seek out or entice the images. If the attorney can show the court that the defendant did not knowingly or willingly receive the images and did not distribute them, the judge may order a less severe sentence or offer the defendant a plea bargain.

If you or someone you know is being charged with child pornography, contact Law Office of Brett A. Podolsky at 713-227-0087 to receive the support and defense you need.

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