• New Sexting Laws in 2011

    Date: 02.02.11 | by Judge Tom.

    As you know, sexting has become a huge issue in recent years resulting in tragic endings for some teenagers and extremely harsh legal penalties for others facing charges under states’ child pornography laws. Sexting is the sending or receiving of nude or semi-nude photos by cell phone or computer.

    States have been taking on the issue in hopes of deterring teens from engaging in this digital danger, but also attempting to create a law that fits the “crime” or act rather than slapping minors with child pornography charges for behavior that was not intended under those laws. Knowing and understanding the possible legal consequences is always important, but teens and parents must be aware of all potential consequences (emotional, social, etc.) and realize that once a digital photo is shared, it can never by permanently deleted. For more about the digital dangers of sexting, take a look at our posts on sextortion and 13 year old Hope Witsell’s tragic story.

    Photo by Rohan Kar

     The following is a list of proposed legislation and newly passed laws concerning sexting.

    Sexting is a misdemeanor offense in these states: Illinois and Connecticut have made the act of sexting a misdemeanor with possible consequences being court supervision, community service and counseling. Sexting is now a misdemeanor offense in Texas as of June 2011. (See other states that have passed similar laws below.)

    Proposed sexting legislation: If this law passes, first-time offenders in New Jersey could avoid prosecution by completing a diversion program, which includes education about the social consequences and criminal penalties of sexting. In 2010, at least 16 states introduced or considered bills aimed at sexting. One proposed bill requires sexters to take educational programs exploring the connection between bullying and sharing of sexually suggestive material. States where sexting legislation has been introduced include Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina. In 2011, the number of states taking up the issue exceeded 21.

    Sexting has been decriminalized or the penalties reduced in the following states: Other states that have reduced the penalties for sexting and made it a misdemeanor or a status offense include Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island*, Utah and Vermont. The penalties in these states may include court supervision, community service, educational classes, counseling and even a short period of time in juvenile detention.

    Sexting may be charged as a felony and a violation of child pornography laws in all other states that have not passed laws to specifically address the act. Teens not only risk being prosecuted for a felony and the harsh penalties imposed under these laws, but possibly having to register as a sex offender. Phillip Alpert was 18 when he forwarded nude photos of his girlfriend to others. He’s now a convicted felon and has to register as a sex offender until he’s 43 years old.

    Teens and parents must realize the seriously unforgiving consequences of what may appear to be an “innocent” sext.

    *In Rhode Island, sexting has been decriminalized for those who send a sexted image of themselves. However, teens who are caught sending sexted photos of others may still be charged with a criminal offense as well as a felony.

    Update: On October 1, 2011, a new sexting law went into effect in Florida decriminalizing sexting for first-time offenders who face eight hours of community service or a $60 fine. However, the penalties increase for second and third offenses making felony charges a possibility for the third offense.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    34 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • jennibowring
      Wed, 02 Feb 2011 at 04:56

      RT @ask_the_judge: Teens and parents – check out these must know laws concerning sexting. http://fb.me/TVXNiaZm

    • jennibowring
      Wed, 02 Feb 2011 at 04:56

      RT @ask_the_judge: Teens and parents – check out these must know laws concerning sexting. http://fb.me/TVXNiaZm

    • calidude
      Wed, 09 Feb 2011 at 05:29

      search susquenita high school sexting ..located in perry county penna.. felonies pursued against minors,,,, school administration viewed nude pics of their minor students all day long before calling state police and parents…. school staff under investigation for viewing of child pornography,,,,head principal even demonstated to few parents what one of the minor teen girls were doing…..little sick and twisted huhhh… too much of this national known story to type,, do the search and read the links…. viewing of of nude minors, is considered viewing of child porn,,, and carries a felony charge for the adult involved…sorry school teachers and admin… your not exempt from this…unless you work in a crimes lab…..
      No person is exempt from the law, but at the same time everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. A full investigation of this incident will be done and the justice system will be involved if and when formal charges are brought. Thanks for your comment.
      [This is information only - not legal advice].

    • Online Social Savvy
      Wed, 16 Feb 2011 at 05:10

      RT @TopsyRT & @ask_the_judge: New #Sexting Laws in 2011 http://bit.ly/gRUnwW #mobile #teens #parenting

    • onlinesavvy
      Wed, 16 Feb 2011 at 05:10

      RT @TopsyRT & @ask_the_judge: New #Sexting Laws in 2011 http://bit.ly/gRUnwW #mobile #teens #parenting

    • DisconnectUniversity
      Wed, 16 Feb 2011 at 05:17

      New Sexting Laws in 2011 http://bit.ly/gRUnwW

    • lt
      Wed, 16 Feb 2011 at 05:25

      RT @disconnectu: New Sexting Laws in 2011 http://bit.ly/gRUnwW

    • Askthejudge.info
      Thu, 17 Feb 2011 at 01:05

      RT @disconnectu New Sexting Laws in 2011 http://bit.ly/gRUnwW

    • Askthejudge.info
      Thu, 17 Feb 2011 at 01:11

      Thx for RT @onlinesavvy! New #Sexting Laws in 2011 http://bit.ly/gRUnwW #mobile #teens #parenting

    • Askthejudge.info
      Tue, 22 Feb 2011 at 10:29

      Should a lewd text meant as a joke and sent to a neighbor result in criminal charges? Join the ATJ community… http://fb.me/L7xH3H9l

    • calidude
      Fri, 17 Jun 2011 at 06:59

      hello judge, maybe you should ask the perry county district attorney in pa. , why hes covering up the actions of approx 5 staff members viewing the nude pics of minors?? keep in mind these were body part photos with no face of identity…..hmmmmm….makes ya wonder why they kept passing them around…they did this the next day as well..phones were turned on by staff members and searched through by staff members, students informed them what was on the phones …they still viewed them…..all day long… can we all say “cover up”….is this angel beach high..”porkys movie” where we identify students by their bodyparts???all this being kept quiet….its a shame no one in our crooked legal system has the balls to pursue this….another example of our system covering up our own “shi$”!! at least there was one reporter from the patriot news that exposed this story.. he even had voice audio recordings of an expolsion hearing, where administration being questioned by an defense attorney…studdered with admitting of viewing of child pornography…. not long after that principal resigned…..hmmm ..
      Thank you for your comments, Calidude. We are not aware of the incident you mention in Penn., however, we have discussed a case involving school officials being investigated for looking at images on students’ phones and possibly invading their privacy. For that story, click here.

    • Scared&Angry
      Wed, 06 Jul 2011 at 05:03

      Dear Judge, Quick question i’m a 20 year old male and made a horrible mistake, met a girl online who i did not know was a minor. She is in Kentucky Myself in Ohio she’s 17 though i had not known this, there was sexting involved however no nude pictures.There were pics of her sent to me that were “revealing” however not nude What kind of punishment am i in for? i realize i’ll probably lose my job along with any ability to have a normal life if i am sent to jail for a simple mistake. I figure i might as well be prepared for the worst. We have never met, only texted. Thank you for your response at your leisure.
      Dear Scared: What may happen depends on a number of factors: the state laws that exist regarding sexting, where you were when the pictures were sent & received, and the content of the photos. “Revealing” shots may or may not fit the legal definition of child pornography, sexting, etc. If you Google both states and “sexting laws” you’ll find information about this and the penalties. Ohio has recently criminalized sexting – see here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xh9c6s_changes-made-to-ohio-sexting-law-stirs-mixed-emotions_news
      You could also speak with a local criminal defense attorney for advice on what to do with the pictures on your phone. Many attorneys provide a free consultation for the first 30 minutes or so. This may be all you need to explain the situation and get some advice. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • Askthejudge.info
      Fri, 15 Jul 2011 at 05:52

      New R.I. #sexting law decriminalizes the act for those who sext photos of themselves. See other states w/ similar laws. http://t.co/rcBlyNi

    • Askthejudge.info
      Fri, 15 Jul 2011 at 05:52

      New R.I. #sexting law decriminalizes the act for those who sext photos of themselves. See other states w/ similar laws. http://t.co/rcBlyNi

    • Sexting Concerns in the U.S. and Abroad « eLocalLawyers Blog: Get Legal Advice, News, & Articles
      Tue, 16 Aug 2011 at 10:21

      [...] then avoids having a record for the incident. However, in the majority of states there are no sexting laws per se, so teens still face possible felony charges under the child porn [...]

    • Social Media & Internet Tips for Parents | Parenting Today Tips
      Sat, 10 Sep 2011 at 10:12

      [...] of Anthony Weiner if those same actions were conducted by a child or teenager. Why? Because “sexting” is the latest teenage epidemic. It’s obviously a serious issue!  We have been [...]

    • MouseMail
      Tue, 13 Sep 2011 at 06:33

      New Sexting Laws in 2011
      http://t.co/fga7K8i

    • CyberCrime101
      Tue, 13 Sep 2011 at 06:36

      RT @MouseMail: New Sexting Laws in 2011
      http://t.co/OEzTHqx <- Good stuff to follow up on

    • InternetSafetyAwards
      Tue, 13 Sep 2011 at 08:10

      RT @CyberCrime101: RT @MouseMail: New Sexting Laws in 2011
      http://t.co/NG5S3sf <- Good stuff to follow up on

    • Chris Duque
      Tue, 13 Sep 2011 at 08:10

      RT @CyberCrime101: RT @MouseMail: New Sexting Laws in 2011
      http://t.co/8GQc3Vp <- Good stuff to follow up on

    • Askthejudge.info
      Wed, 14 Sep 2011 at 12:18

      New Sexting Laws in 2011
      http://t.co/fga7K8i

    • Askthejudge.info
      Wed, 14 Sep 2011 at 04:31

      RT @MouseMail: New Sexting Laws in 2011
      http://t.co/OEzTHqx <- Good stuff to follow up on

    • Social Media & Internet Tips for Parents | Parenting Today Tips
      Tue, 20 Sep 2011 at 06:57

      [...] of Anthony Weiner if those same actions were conducted by a child or teenager. Why? Because “sexting” is the latest teenage epidemic. It’s obviously a serious issue!  We have been seeing [...]

    • “Generation Sexting” | Jeebboo News
      Tue, 10 Jul 2012 at 03:02

      [...] and Characteristics of Youth Sexting: A National Study (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org) New Sexting Laws in 2011 (http://www.askthejudge.info) Sex Crime Criminal Defense (http://www.sexcrimecriminaldefense.com) [...]

    • johnathan tyler shirley
      Thu, 25 Oct 2012 at 06:15

      i think they need to be harsher

    • sg
      Fri, 23 Nov 2012 at 05:04

      very good
      Thank you, SG.

    • Michael Korrek
      Fri, 08 Mar 2013 at 03:57

      I sent a nude private area to some one that turned out to be a minor. I’m not a pervert or anything and have a steady girlfriend. I am 57 years old. I live in south Carolina. She has been blackmailing me about the photos so I called my local police and told them the situation. They said no more money. She carried on an explicit conversation for a while about the pictures. Am I looking at a felony if I am reported.
      Dear Michael: We are an educational site for & about teenagers and the laws that affect them. We don’t provide legal advice to adults or teens.
      We suggest you speak with a local criminal defense lawyer about this. He or she would know the laws in your state that apply to sexting, etc. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice)

    • Branden
      Wed, 03 Apr 2013 at 04:23

      Dear judge, what if a 23 year old sent a nude pic to a minor who he did not know at the time is a minor, what are the consequences if she is In CA
      Dear Branden: Under California’s law banning “harmful matter sent with the intent to seduce a minor”, an adult who sexts a minor could face misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the specific facts and the person’s criminal history. The consequences range from unsupervised probation to jail time and sex offender registration. Whether or not the adult should have known that he was sexting a minor may be left for the judge or jury to decide if the case goes that far. It’s best to play it safe and not sext anyone who you are uncertain of their age. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice.)

    • Worried
      Sun, 05 May 2013 at 02:36

      What if an 18 year old who lives in NC sends a nude picture to a 17 year old that lives in West Virginia? What could be the legal consequences?
      Dear Worried: It depends on the laws in each state. Many states have sexting laws and you have to look to the specific language to see if the law has been broken. Google the name of each state and “sexting laws” for information. It also depends on whether there’s enough evidence for the county or district attorney to file charges.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • Daniel
      Tue, 13 Aug 2013 at 03:08

      Dear Judge, i messed up and started talking to a 15 year old who was (even if it doesn’t make up for anything) more mature than she seemed while i was 22. We sexted and exchanged one “revealing” picture but not a naked one. She also said she was having family problems and i was the only thing keeping her from killing herself which worried me and made me to continue talking to her. She is in California and i am abroad in South America and i am scared to death of what will happen. Not being american i am terrified of the law and the consequences and can’t sleep. Any advice?
      Dear Daniel: First, we don’t provide legal advice to anyone – teens or adults. You need to speak with criminal attorney for legal advice. Depending on the laws in California as well as your country and the specific facts of the incident, you could be facing consequences for the photos exchanged only if someone reported them to the police. It would probably be best to discontinue your relationship with this girl or at least be sure to avoid exchanging any more pics and keep your conversations with her age appropriate and not sexual. Deleting the picture would also be a good idea even though they can be recovered by the police if an investigation were to occur. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice.)

    • Sexting Concerns in the U.S. and Abroad | Legal Articles
      Wed, 08 Jan 2014 at 06:17

      […] then avoids having a record for the incident. However, in the majority of states there are no sexting laws per se, so teens still face possible felony charges under the child porn […]

    • scared juvenile please help
      Fri, 07 Feb 2014 at 03:55

      I am a I am a 17 year old male. recently two detectives came to my house with files with a picture of my private. They said they got it from a website and it had been posted I admitted to it and they told me I could be changed and convicted for this. Mbirthday us in 15 days I’ll be turning 18 please somebody tell me what i should do I lie in walton county Florida
      Dear Scared: Sexting is a crime in Florida. See this government site for information about the laws in Florida: http://www.floridahealth.gov/CHD/Bay/Sexting.html
      We suggest you talk with your parents and/or a local criminal defense lawyer about this and for some advice. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • Amanda VanPatten
      Sat, 29 Mar 2014 at 08:43

      Hello I have a 14 year old daughter who just got caught last week on her ipad from school sending a topless picture to what is to believe an old man who shared photo’s of his genitals to her. She is mildly mentally handicap so she may or may not undetstand what she did was wrong. I live in Indiana what could she be facing as charges? She has no prior record or run ins.
      Dear Amanda: Check out the following site to find specific information about the sexting laws in Indiana. Although it appears that Indiana does not have a sexting law, it’s possible that her actions could fall under another law. However, based on the circumstances you have described, the police/prosecutor’s office would be more interested in charging the older man who sent pictures to your daughter as he may be doing this to other young girls. Here is more information about the possible consequences/charges for sexting in Indiana. If you believe that your daughter may be charged, you could try contacting a local criminal defense attorney for help and assistance. Many attorneys offer a free initial consultation. An attorney could also help you make a complaint to the police about the older man while protecting the rights of your daughter. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice.)

    • Curious
      Sun, 06 Apr 2014 at 07:29

      Do you know of any states that would consider “talking dirty” (no revealing images are exchanged, just written descriptions of sexual acts) between two minors to be sexting? If so, are the reprimands akin to those of sexting? I have looked into various state sexting laws and have seen no mention of imageless correspondence being a punishable action
      Dear Curious: Check out the following document about sexting laws in each state. It appears that the Arizona sexting law is written to include “explicit texts” so it’s possible that this means sexually explicit texts and not necessarily images, but you would have to review the entire law. Thanks for asking.
      (Check our Resource Directory for more help and resources in your area. This is information only – not legal advice.)

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