Parents often cringe when they hear their teenagers are involved in “sexting.” They know that teen sexting involving minors can lead to very serious charges of violating California’s child pornography laws pursuant to Penal Code Sections 311.1 to 311.12.
What is Sexting?
The term sexting refers to the exchange of nude self-portraits or other sexually explicit photos typically taken on a teenager’s smartphone and then sent to a boyfriend or girlfriend, friends or classmates via cellphone text, email, or through the use of social networking sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Teen sexting is often a way a teenage couple expresses love for one another, so there is not much thought involved about whether there is anything wrong about it. However, teens may not realize that sexting is considered distribution, production and/or possession of child pornography. This is a sex crime that law enforcement agencies will investigate and pursue charges for if there is sufficient evidence.
The Good News about Teen Sexting
Some states are enacting laws that specifically address teen sexting, which typically provide for less harsh consequences than when the same behavior is committed by an adult. The goal is to educate and counsel teens so they do not have to face serious criminal consequences.
For example, a 2013 bill winning overwhelming approval by the New Jersey Legislature would allow minors who share nude photos of themselves with other minors to have their cases resolved in family court rather than face prosecution. Additionally, they would avoid ending up on the state’s public sex offender registry.
Does California Have a Teen Sexting Law?
Not currently. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, California legislative efforts to enact laws specifically regulating teen sexting have failed to pass. Orange County teens may still be prosecuted under California’s general child pornography and exploitation laws, which provide for very harsh sentences.
What Can Happen to Your Adult Teenager if He/She is Caught Sexting?
If an 18 or 19-year-old teenager is charged with a child pornography crime, he or she faces the following potential criminal punishment upon a conviction:
Up to one year in jail if convicted of a misdemeanor;
16 months to eight years in prison if convicted of a felony;
Heavy fines; and/or
GPS-enforced community supervision by a probation officer or parole agent, including but not limited to:
Residency restrictions prohibiting him or her from living within 2,000 feet of schools or parks where children gather;
No contact with any minors (including family members);
Weekly certified sex offender treatment involving polygraph examinations; and
A nightly curfew.
Worst of all, anyone convicted of a California child pornography crime must register as a sex offender for the rest of his or her life while residing, working or attending school in California.
What if Your Minor Child was Caught Sexting?
Juveniles charged with non-violent criminal activity are usually allowed to have their cases “adjudicated” in the juvenile court system rather than prosecuted in superior court as an adult. The purpose of the juvenile court system is to educate and counsel a minor, not to punish him or her.
However, parents must understand that while a juvenile under the age of 18 may be able to avoid some of the more severe penalties associated with a child pornography conviction, teen sexting can still lead to other serious consequences, including:
- Incarceration in juvenile hall;
- Seizure of cell phones by schools and by law enforcement;
- Suspension from school;
- Loss of academic and athletic opportunities;
- Withdrawal of college acceptance offers;
- Court imposed community service and counseling;
- Difficulty getting a job;
- Humiliation, embarrassment and damage to one’s reputation; and
What Should Parents in Orange County Do if Their Teenager is Accused of Sexting?
If your teenage son or daughter has been accused of sexting, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich may be able to help your family avoid the more serious consequences of a child pornography conviction. Our attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully representing our adult and juvenile clients charged with a sex crime.
Our attorney’s may be able to challenge the evidence against your child by filing a Motion to Suppress Evidence under Penal Code section 1538.5. If we are successful, evidence against the minor will be ruled inadmissible, which often leads to charges being dismissed.
If your teenager is under the age of 18, we will argue that his or her case must be referred to the juvenile courts, where we will be able to negotiate for probation and/or counseling instead of pleading guilty to a crime requiring sex offender registration. Best of all, a juvenile adjudication allows your child the opportunity to have his or her case dismissed upon successful completion of his or her sentence.
With offices in
Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our skilled attorneys at Wallin & Klarich will fight to obtain the best result possible in your teenager’s sexting case.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.