Teen Sexting Laws in Texas

The rise in the use of smartphones, which allows users to take and send photos, has brought about a new category of crime called “sexting” — sending suggestive or nude photos of a someone to another person using a cell phone.

In Texas, sexting crimes committed by minors and adults are treated differently, with different laws used to prosecute minors versus adults and differing penalties as well.

Minor Sexting

Texas’ law against electronically transmitting sexual depictions of children is used to prosecute teens suspected of sexting. This is a Class C misdemeanor with penalties of a fine of up to $500 and more severe penalties for repeat offenses or if the act of sexting was part of cyber-bullying or other harassment.

However, minors in Texas do have a defense to prosecution for sexting, which is when the images sent were only of the sender or the recipient, the sender and recipient are in a dating relationship and both parties are not more than two years apart in age (including if one of them is over 18).

Adult Sexting

Adults who engage in sexting with minors can be prosecuted for distributing sexual images to a minor, possessing or distributing child pornography or promoting sexual performance by a minor, which are all felonies in Texas. Penalties can include a fine of up to $10,000, up to 20 years in prison, or both.

Federal Law

Sexting may also be a federal crime, depending on the circumstances. The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of 2003 prohibits the production, distribution, receipt or possession with intent to distribute any image of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. It is also a federal crime to solicit or promote sexually explicit material involving someone under the age of 18.

Minors are typically not subject to federal prosecution for sexting since the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act provides that, where possible, minors should be prosecuted by the state for such crimes.

The Cogdell Law Firm is a boutique law firm focusing on large, complex business and criminal financial-related litigation, including white collar criminal defense, securities fraud, health care fraud investigation, criminal appeals and state criminal defense. When results matter most, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or dan@cogdell-law.com.

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