Smartphones and mobile devices have made everything easier. Keeping in touch with your contacts, getting directions to your destination, and even perpetrating crimes are simplified through mobile technology. While teens are known for their almost continuous text messaging of friends, texting has taken a more unnerving trend among young people—sexting. "Sexting," the combination of "sex" and "texting," is the term used to describe sending sexually explicit text messages or MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) messages and images via mobile phone.
Sexting is not a legal term, and when it takes place between consenting adults, it is not a crime. However, when either the subject or the object of a "sext" is a minor under the age of 18, it is a sex crime. A person accused of distributing or possessing a sexually explicit cell phone image of a minor will not be charged with "sexting." Rather, he or she will be charged with the underlying sex offense. Typically, sexting cases revolve around possession or distribution of child pornography, but they can also include crimes such as solicitation of a minor or indecent exposure.
When an adult sends sexually explicit images to the cell phone or mobile device of a minor, few people would argue that a crime has occurred. Penalties for soliciting minors online or indecent exposure range from 10 to 30 years in prison accompanied by sex offender registration requirements.
However, what many teens and young adults under age 18 fail to realize is that they can be prosecuted for distributing child pornography if they send sexually explicit images of themselves to their friends. Likewise, anyone who receives the sext could be charged with possession of child pornography, and if he or she forwards the image, he or she may be charged with distribution of child pornography.
Sexting among teens occurs far more frequently than it is prosecuted; however, there have been cases in which a person who sent a sexually explicit image of herself was charged with distributing child pornography, and the victim of the "crime" was the girl herself. More commonly, when a person receives a sexually explicit image from a minor peer and forwards it to friends, he or she can be charged with distribution of child pornography. These cases are more frequently prosecuted because the victim did not intend for the image to be seen by others. The forwarded image often results in bullying and harassment, and the victim feels victimized indeed.
According to an Oklahoma Law Review article, "Sex-Cells: Evaluating Punishments for Teen "Sexting" in Oklahoma and Beyond," state law needs clarification when it comes to teen sexting and criminal prosecution. One example of the problems with existing laws encompassing sexting is that a minor who is coerced into sending a sexually explicit MMS message could theoretically be prosecuted as producing or distributing child pornography, even though he or she is the victim of coercion.
Clearly, in cases where teen sexting is prosecuted as a sex offense, assertive legal defense is needed to urge a dismissal of frivolous charges. Rather than facing criminal prosecution, many teens involved in sexting cases need education and intervention to understand the potential far-reaching and long-term consequences of sending suggestive or explicit sexual images of themselves to others.
Any computer sex crime can be perpetrated through a mobile device. Common cell-phone or "sexting" offenses include:
In Oklahoma, the age of consent to sexual activity is 16. For the purposes of solicitation of minors or lewd proposals to a minor, the victim must be under the age of 16. However, child pornography is defined as images of a minor under the age of 18 engaged in sexually explicit activity. This means that a 16 or 17 year old who is legally able to consent to sex must not send sexually explicit images to his or her partner, or both the sender and the recipient of the images could face child pornography charges.
Sexting laws seem complicated, but they are really encompassed in existing laws. There are no Oklahoma statutes preventing "sexting." Rather, there are laws preventing the sexual exploitation of minors, and these are the crimes with which sexting defendants are charged.
If you have been accused of a sex crime for sending a sexually suggestive text message to a minor or if your child is facing a child pornography charge for sexting, obtaining swift and experienced legal counsel is critical. The attorneys with Phillips & Associates have built a solid reputation for successful defense against felony sex crimes. With heavy fines, lengthy prison terms, and mandatory sex offender registration looming as consequences of conviction, it is imperative to protect your future by finding an attorney who can provide you with sound legal advice and skillful defense representation. Call (405) 418-8888 to schedule a free consultation of submit our confidential case review form to contact a lawyer who can help.