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When Does Sexting Become a Crime in California?

What Is Sexting?

Sexting is the act of sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually suggestive messages, photos, or videos. These are typically exchanged through phones but can also be sent on computers or any other digital device. Sexting has become surprisingly common, with studies showing a significant portion of teens and young adults having sent or received sexts.

However, sexting can have a dark side. It can turn criminal depending on the age of the people involved and the content of the exchange.

Sexting Can Be Linked to Child Pornography Charges

It is illegal to send or possess nude or sexually explicit images of someone who is underage. It is also a crime to send or offer to send harmful and sexual material to a minor with the goal of achieving sexual gratification or seducing or arousing the minor.

Thus, sexting with a minor is illegal. A person can also face criminal charges if they sext an adult using the photos of a minor.

Sexting Can Also Be Linked to Other Crimes

California has criminalized revenge porn under California Penal Code § 647(J)(4). Revenge porn refers to the practice where private, explicit images or videos of an individual are shared online without their consent, often by a former partner. Revenge porn is considered a form of sexual exploitation and cyberbullying.

To be specific, you can face criminal charges if you distribute, send, or share explicit or compromising photos of another person (i.e. photos of them engaged in a sexual act or that show intimate body parts) with the intent to cause fear or that person’s injury. If a person uses images sent to them in confidence (while sexting) to post revenge porn, they can be charged with one of the following offenses:

  • Harassment by means of an electronic device. This offense occurs when someone distributes or sends harassing messages or any personally identifying information (including images) of another person. Violating this offense is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.
  • Unlawful distribution of private images. Distributing photos of a person’s intimate body parts or of them engaged in a sexual act is illegal. This offense is also punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or 364 days in jail.
  • Unauthorized use of an electronic device. Accessing a computer, computer system, or network without permission to gain access to and copy data, including private images, is a crime. If a person posts revenge porn of images they were not sent but obtained using these methods, they can be charged with this offense, which is a felony.

Defense Counsel for Those Charged with Sex Crimes

The attorneys at Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC have over 100 years of collective experience, and as a small firm, we are afforded the opportunity to take a hands-on approach to cases. This means that you directly benefit from this experience.

In criminal defense cases, experience matters. A seasoned lawyer has likely encountered cases similar to yours and understands the intricacies of the legal system, and this experience translates into a deeper understanding of the prosecution's strategies and allows them to craft a more effective defense.

Our experience is not our only strength. Our attorneys are also former prosecutors, which means that we have a personal and unique understanding of how the opposing counsel may approach the case.

Benefit from our experience! Request a free consultation today by calling (949) 251-0330.