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Sexual Assault, Megan's Law, and Other Sex Crimes: Sexting

Under New Jersey and federal law, “sexting” (sending sexual images and video via text message or social media) involving minors can be prosecuted as a form of child pornography. A law passed in 2012 provides some protection for minors (under age 18) who are caught engaging in first-time sexting offenses; however, minors who commit multiple offenses and adults who send or receive any explicit images of children can face severe penalties including fines, imprisonment, and sex offender registration.

What Teens and Adults in New Jersey Need to Know about Sexting

Sexting is perhaps one of the easiest ways to face prosecution for child pornography or endangering the welfare of a child. Under Section 2C:24-4 of the New Jersey Statutes, it is illegal to:

  • Cause or permit “a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act if the person knows, has reason to know or intends that the prohibited act may be photographed, filmed, reproduced, or reconstructed in any manner;”
  • Take a photo or video of “a child in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act;” or,
  • Knowingly distribute or possess “an item depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child.”

When it comes to minors, “prohibited sexual acts,” “sexual exploitation” and “abuse” include all forms of sexual contact as well as nudity, “if [the nudity is] depicted for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification of any person who may view such depiction.” Each of the offenses described above can be committed by sending or receiving a sexually-explicit image of a minor on your phone. In New Jersey, simply receiving an inappropriate text message has the potential to lead to charges of possession of child pornography, while the act of forwarding a sexually-explicit text depicting a minor can result in charges of child pornography distribution.

The penalties for sexting in New Jersey depend on the nature of the crime alleged. Creating and distributing sexually-explicit images or video of minors can be charged as a first or second-degree offense. Simply possessing pornographic images of a minor is a third-degree offense. The penalties for each degree of offense include:

  • First-Degree Sexting: 10 to 20 years of imprisonment and a $200,000 fine.
  • Second-Degree Sexting: Five to 10 years of imprisonment and a $150,000 fine.
  • Third-Degree Sexting: Three to five years of imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.

A sexting conviction under New Jersey law can also mean sex offender registration under Megan’s Law, parole supervision for life and other consequences. If charged under federal law, many sexting offenses are felonies that carry long-term imprisonment.

Are You Facing Sexting Charges? Let Our Attorneys Fight for You

If you or your teen is facing sexting charges in New Jersey, the criminal defense attorneys at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman will fight vigorously to help you avoid the devastating effects of a sex crime conviction. You or your teen may have defenses available, and we will explore all options for minimizing the consequences of your situation. To get started with a confidential consultation, call our law offices 1-877-435-6371 or request a consultation online now.

 

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