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Sexting: Illegal When Underage

A relatively new crime and a new word, sexting is the knowing electronic transmission of sexually explicit images. When is sexting a crime?

Transmitting a sexually explicit image that in any way involves a child is illegal. Two primary avenues of prosecution on sexting charges include:

  • Adults producing, promoting or transmitting electronic files displaying sexual conduct by a child

  • Teens transmitting sexually explicit images of themselves, friends or acquaintances

Under Florida law, adult transmission of explicit material involving children is considered child pornography. At least initially, a teen distributing a sexual image is considered a mistake.

In October 2011, Florida revised legislation relating to sexting by those under 18 years of age. Under older laws, teens who sent sexually explicit material could be charged with a felony and required to register as a sex offender. Under the new law, penalties for minors include:

  • A first offense is a non-criminal violation that results in eight hours of community service or a $60 fine

  • The second offense is a first-degree misdemeanor

  • A third offense is a third-degree felony that carries a prison sentence

For adults, possession or distribution of sexually explicit materials involving children is serious and illegal. Sending explicit sexual images to children for purposes of exhibition is equally damaging. Conviction on child pornography charges can lead to long prison terms and registration as a sex offender.

Images once sent cannot be recovered. The unthinking click of a button can damage your reputation and your liberty. If facing a criminal sexting charge, talk to our attorneys for help.

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