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Is Sexting a Crime in Texas?

June 10, 2017 By Jeff King

The media is full of reports on the high numbers of teens who admit to sending sexually explicit images by text message and it paints the action as commonplace – and therefore without penalty. But teen sexting is punishable under Texas law and a conviction can follow someone for years to come. Texas sex crimes defense lawyer Jeff King understands the long-term negative consequences a sexting conviction can have on your life, including future employment opportunities. With so much at stake, you need an attorney on your side who fights to win.

 

How do states address sexting?

 

A 2014 study by Drexel University surveyed undergraduate college students and determined that more than half had sent or received sexually explicit text messages, whether with or without photos, as minors. The study also found a correlation between sexting and knowledge of the legal consequences – those who knew that it was a prosecutable offense were significantly less likely to engage. Studies like these have bolstered the attempts of states’ lawmakers to criminalize sending or receiving these messages.

 

States tackling the teen “sexting” problem have generally taken one of two approaches. Either punish under existing laws (which can include child pornography laws, disorderly conduct, or sexual abuse of children) or create a new law specifically targeting sexting.

 

Texas has adopted the second approach. Its sexting law went into effect in 2011.

 

Texas sexting law

 

Section 43.261 of the Texas Penal Code criminalizes certain electronic transmission of visual material depicting a minor engaging in “sexual conduct”, which has the same meaning under the sexting law as it has under the obscenity law. The statute states:

 

(b) A person who is a minor commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly:

 

(1) by electronic means promotes to another minor visual material depicting a minor, including the actor, engaging in sexual conduct, if the actor produced the visual material or knows that another minor produced the visual material; or

 

(2) possesses in an electronic format visual material depicting another minor engaging in sexual conduct, if the actor produced the visual material or knows that another minor produced the visual material.

 

The statute offers several defenses, including that there was no more than two years age difference between the sender and recipient and they were in a dating relationship at the time, and the recipient deleted the text within a reasonable time.

 

Penalties for sexting in Texas

 

The sexting statute specifically applies to minors and the penalties are low compared to other sex crimes. As a class C, B or A misdemeanor, teen sexting is punishable by a fine and/or up to 1 year in jail.

 

When the sharing of sext messages involves adults, however, it can implicate much more serious charges such as those under state and federal child pornography laws. These carry major penalties that can derail a person’s life path.

 

Even if it seems like a harmless teen activity, sexting charges need to be taken seriously. If you are facing charges in or near Dallas, Texas, do not wait to call a TX sexting lawyer.

 

Jeff King takes every sex crime charge seriously and examines a case from every angle to make sure that the prosecution does not cut any corners in attempting to prove its case. Call our office in Dallas to schedule a free, confidential consultation today.

Additional “Texas Sexting Laws” Resources:

  1. Texas Statutes, Penal Code Title 9. Offenses Against Public Order And Decency Chapter 43. Public Indecency Subchapter A. Prostitution, http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.43.htm
  2. Drexel University, Majority of Minors Engage in Sexting, Unaware of Harsh Legal Consequences, http://drexel.edu/now/archive/2014/June/Sexting-Study/
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