Is Sexting Illegal in New York?

The act of sexting, sending explicit messages and photos via phone, is considered illegal in New York City and can, in fact, result in child pornography charges. Originally, this law was used to hold adults accountable for exploiting children, but the law may also apply to two consenting teenagers in certain circumstances. With technology as widespread and instantaneous as it is, the issue of sexting in the younger generation has since become more of an issue.

What is “Sexting”?

Sexting is officially defined as the transmission of sexual messages, photos, and videos using a cell phone, usually through text messaging or some other electronic application. Typically these messages are sent between two people, though they can be addressed or forwarded to mass recipients. The issues begin when children becoming involved in this explicit cyber trend. By receiving a sext from a teenager who is under the age of 18 and therefore children by law, the recipient is technically receiving child pornography.

Child Pornography Laws in New York State

The child pornography laws in place in New York City are designed to protect children from sexual predators, but even if two teenagers are sexting consensually it could lead to a criminal charge. New York laws prohibit the distribution of child pornography, so if a teenager were to receive a nude photo of someone 16 years old or younger and showed that picture to someone else, it would be considered distribution. It is also illegal to use the internet to send sexual material to someone under the age of 17, or to engage in sexually explicit conversation. And, asking someone under the age of 17 to send sexually obscene material could result in even more severe punishment.

Regardless of whether or not the underage person consents to the communication or explicit images and videos, receiving or asking for them is unlawful. This means, for example, if an 18-year-old high school student were to send an explicit photo to a 16-year-old, the 18-year-old committed a crime.

New York State Punishment for Sexting

The punishment for these crimes varies greatly and can result in a Class C felony charge and up to 15 years in prison with fines of up to $5,000. Conviction of child pornography charges will also require the convicted person to register as a sex offender in New York. This registry will apply for at least 20 years and may last a lifetime. However, New York also offers a diversion program in lieu of jail time. Instead of criminal prosecution, teenagers charged with crimes like sexting or cyberbullying may opt to participate in an educational program. The program is designed to educate teens about the legal and private consequences of sharing sexual or abusive content online. To qualify for this program, the person who sent the sexual content and the recipient must both be under the age of 20, and they cannot be more than 5 years apart in age.

Federal Laws

The 2003 Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today Act (PROTECT) is a federal law that outlaws the production, distribution, and receiving of sexual images of minors. However, it is unlikely juveniles will be federally prosecuted for sexting, it is more likely they will be sent to the state court to be dealt with.

Contact Us Today

If you or your child is charged with a sexual crime because of sexting, such as the distribution or possession of child pornography, contact a New York criminal defense attorney at Musa-Obregon Law PC today to request a free case evaluation.

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