Have you ever heard the term sexting? Essentially, it is the act of taking, sending or receiving nude photos or sexually suggestive messages by cellphone or another electronic device.
While sexting is often a bad idea — particularly if the images are made public — it may also be a criminal offense if the participants are under the age of 18. This applies to both the person sending/taking the photos and the person receiving/possessing the photos. In some cases, sexting among teens can even result is an Ohio felony conviction, jail time and required registration as a sex offender — meaning one mistake as a teen can lead to a lifetime of stigma and legal problems.
Criminal charges applicable to teen sexting
To be clear, even though sexting between consenting adults is not a criminal offense, once it involves someone under the age of 18, a crime has likely been committed, regardless of whether the alleged offender sent the message, accepted the message, forwarded the message or simply showed the message to someone else.
While there is no law in Ohio that specifically addresses sexting, there are several that may apply to the act itself, including, but not limited to:
- Child pornography charges: Under Ohio law, it is illegal to create, possess, publish or reproduce any obscene material involving a minor – otherwise known as pandering obscenity involving a minor.
- Illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material: It is also a crime to photograph, transfer or possess a nude image of minor, unless the parents have given consent and the photos are for a legitimate (bona fide) purpose, such as an educational, religious or medical purpose.
- Endangering children: In Ohio, it is illegal for anyone to entice, coerce, permit, encourage or allow a person under the age of 18 to be photographed in an obscene, sexually oriented or nudity-oriented manner. So if one teen encourages another to take nude photos, he or she could be convicted for child endangerment.
In many instances, prosecutors have some discretion about whether or not to bring charges in cases involving teen sexting. But why risk it? In order to avoid any possible juvenile sex-offense charges, teens should avoid sexting altogether.
However, if you or a teen family member has already been charged with a sex-related offense, you need to seek experienced legal guidance as soon as possible. A skilled attorney can help ensure your rights are protected.