Sexting is when minors (those under 18) share sexual images of themselves or other minors online and by cellphone. Most minors share these images to flirt or because they were asked to by a boyfriend or girlfriend. However, sometimes they are pressured into sharing these images even when they don’t want to. No one should pressure anyone else into sexting.
No one has the right to make someone else share sexual images – not even a significant other. It’s illegal to share sexually explicit images of minors. However, many minors caught sexting are not charged with a crime. They may be ordered to attend educational programs or perform community service. They may also get in trouble at school and experience social consequences, such as being judged or excluded by their peers and communities.
What are the Legal Penalties?
According to Texas Penal Code Section 43.261, it is possible for a minor (under 18) to be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony offense for possession or promotion of child pornography, depending upon the circumstances.
Misdemeanor Conditions and Penalties for Sexting:
Class C misdemeanor: A fine of up to $500.00.You can be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor for sexting promotion or possession if it is a first-time offense and you are a minor.
Class B misdemeanor: A fine up to $2,000.00, 180 days in jail, or both. You can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor for sexting if you are a minor and you promoted visual material with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend someone, or have previously been convicted for sexting
Class A misdemeanor: A fine up to $4,000.00, one year in jail, or both. You can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor for sexting if you are a minor and you have previously been convicted one or more times of promoting the visual material with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend someone or have previously been convicted for general sexting promotion or possession two or more times
Felony Conditions and Penalties for Child Pornography (18 or over):
Third degree felony: A fine not to exceed $10,000.00 and at least two years in prison, but no more than 10 years. You can be charged with a third degree felony for possession of child pornography if you are at least 18 years old.
Second degree felony: A fine not to exceed $10,000 and at least 2 years in prison, but no more than 20 years. You can be charged with a second degree felony for promotion of child pornography as either a minor or as an adult.
Consider this: It’s completely possible that as an 18 year old high school senior, you may be charged and convicted of possession and/or promotion of child pornography if the person you're dating is under 18 years old and sends you such images and you have them on your phone or computer. The offense of possession is complete upon receipt of the images; promotion involves showing or sending them on to other people and is a second degree felony.