New Jersey recently passed a law under which teenagers convicted of sexting would have to participate in education programs that make them aware about the dangers of such practices. However, even as the state upgrades its laws to deal with sexting teenagers, New Jersey criminal defense lawyers are finding a rising wave of crimes involving blackmail using explicit photographs transmitted via cell phones and other devices.
It's called sextortion, and the practice has become widespread due to the popularity of smart phone technology. A sextortionist has access to nude, seminude or sexually explicit digital images of a person and uses these images to blackmail that person.
A sextortionist is very often a former boyfriend or girlfriend who has access to compromising images of the person. Typically, teenagers who take pictures of themselves and transmit them via cell phones are horrified at the thought of having these images reach their parents, schools or teachers. This fear of being found out is what a sextortionist preys on. A sextortionist may threaten to distribute the images in school, show them to parents and teachers or upload them on the Internet.
Tales of blackmail involving images transmitted on a cell phone or computer are becoming increasingly common around the country. States have been reporting on cases of blackmail involving such pictures, including:
- A man in Alabama, who blackmailed more than 50 young women whose nude images he procured and was sentenced to 18 years in prison;
- A Wisconsin teenager, who blackmailed a young girl and was sentenced to 15 years in prison; and
- A California man who hacked into the computers of teenage girls, stole nude pictures, and then blackmailed them before he was caught.
Any adult can be a victim of sextortion, but teenagers seem to be at a higher risk of falling victim to these crimes.