Electronics are everywhere, and we all use them: smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers. Teenage cellphone use now outpaces adult use. A few years ago, nearly 80 percent of all teenagers had a cell phone (according to the Pew Research Center). The numbers are even greater today. It’s so easy to search, click, forward, and send amusing jokes, photos, articles, etc. But what happens when a teenager sends a sexually charged image or video? What some teens perceive as flirting or innocent playfulness may have serious legal consequences.
Sexting Laws Focus on Minors
Sexting, a 21st-century phenomenon, is defined as sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit messages, photos, or images, primarily between mobile phones. The crime involves sending such images of or to a minor. It may also include using any digital device or computer.
Why is sexting so pervasive among teens? A few reasons:
- Teenagers, particularly high schoolers, want the attention or to appear cool among their peers
- Cellphones are ubiquitous among teens
- Teenagers often do not appreciate the seriousness of their actions
- It’s easy to take nude images (including selfies) and then transmit them
Teens who send or receive nude images can embarrass themselves and each other—but it’s also potentially criminal behavior. Many states consider teenage sexting child pornography.
Florida law is different, and legislators recognized the uniqueness of sexting among teenagers when they enacted Florida Statute 847.0141.
In Florida, a minor (anyone younger than 18) commits the crime of sexting by knowingly using a smartphone, tablet, computer or another electronic device to send media containing nudity to another minor.
Even a passive recipient can be charged with receiving and possessing a nude or sexually explicit image that was sent from another minor. However there is a specific defense for an innocent recipient, if the teen didn’t ask for it, didn’t forward it, and took steps to report the image to a parent, guardian, or school official.
Instead of automatically charging a minor with illicit child pornography, authorities can take several steps.
The first offense is usually a noncriminal violation, for which there is a $60 fine and eight hours of community service. However, after that, the penalties quickly get more serious. The next offense constitutes a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. After that, a teenager who is convicted of a third-degree felony could face five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Call an Experienced St. Petersburg, Florida, Criminal Attorney
When you’re facing a criminal charge, it is advisable to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The skilled professionals at Khonsari Law Group are here to help. Call us at (727) 269-5300 today, or contact us online. Our skilled legal team is ready to discuss the details of your case and help you work through this challenging time. We can help you navigate the often confusing criminal defense system and work towards the best outcome for your case.