Though it may seem harmless to those engaging in the practice, sexting or sending explicit and provocative text messages and photos to another person could lead to legal trouble, especially among teenagers.
As the practice has grown in popularity over the past few years, criminal law attorneys are seeing more instances where those doing it end up facing legal consequences.
Teenagers who engage in sexting should pay special attention, as state laws in Texas are strict and could leave them with a criminal record.
What Is Sexting According to Texas Law?
According to the Texas Penal Code, sexting that is an accurate acronym of sex and texting ;is defined as the sending of texts containing sexual images or sexually suggestive language to another person.
The definition encompasses everything from explicit photos to descriptions of sexual or lewd acts, whether they are sent to a willing recipient partaking in the sexting or to someone else as a threat or form of harassment.
Criminal defense lawyers are seeing more and more teens engaging in this practice and most troubling of all, it is being done without an understanding of the possible repercussions that doing so could bring.
Teenagers And Sexting - Who Can Be Penalized?
Many teenagers engage in sexting today by sending explicit messages and photos to each other as a form of flirting, while some also do it as a means of harassing and intimidating each other.
In either case, teens found to be sexting regardless of their age can be charged and penalized according to the law.
Criminal law attorneys point out that depending on the age of the youth engaging in sexting, teens could face a variety of criminal charges.
Those 17 or older who are above the age of consent in Texas could be charged as an adult with a sex crime, especially if they are texting to someone who is still considered a minor.
Teens may also face charges of possession of and transferring of child pornography if images sent over text are of a teen who is under the age of consent.
Additionally, while teens 17 or over may consent to sex and sexting and legally sext with an equally consenting boyfriend or girlfriend within two years of their age, they may not engage in sexting with anyone 20 years old or over.
What Are the Penalties for Sexting?
Although teens accused of sexting previously faced felony charges as well as a requirement to register as a sex offender, those penalties have recently been reduced to a misdemeanor and the requirement to register as a sex offender has been dropped.
Punishments for a misdemeanor C first-time sexting offense is a fine of up to $500, but additional offenses can carry punishments of up to 180 days in jail and fines of up to $2,000.
The biggest concern in many of these cases is determining whether a teen is to be charged as an adult or if they should be charged as a minor based on their age and actual awareness of the implications of sexting.
Teenagers Who Do Sexting Can Face Serious Charges
As common as the practice may be among many teenagers, most do not understand how this activity is viewed according to Texas laws and the potential repercussions that doing so can bring.
Any teen charged with sexting should immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer experienced with sex-related crimes to discuss the situation.
It’s critical that the fine line between flirtatious, consensual sexting and illegally sending sexual content is defined to present a favorable defense in these cases.
Reynaldo Garza, III - Attorney at Law
680 East St. Charles St, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520