Sexting and the potential for criminal prosecution

Sexting involves transmitting photographs or sending suggestive statements via text messaging or social media usually using cell phones. While doing so is generally not illegal, it is under Illinois child pornography law when the images involve depictions of minors.

The problem is that many minors send photos of themselves to their friends, and they receive photos from other minors, including ones depicting themselves in sexual situations. When a minor sends a suggestive picture of himself or herself to another minor, both the sender could be charged with transmitting child pornography while the recipient could be charged with possessing child pornography.

While many people feel that child pornography laws should not be harshly applied to minors who are sexting, prosecutors do have the discretion to charge teens in that way. People should be aware of this and talk about it with their kids. In addition to the possibility of prosecution, teens need to be aware that it could lead to their being required to register as sex offenders. This could permanently impact their futures.

Although juvenile crimes normally move through the juvenile justice system, prosecutors may also seek to certify juvenile offenders as adults and prosecute them in adult court. When minors face adult prosecution, they also may face adult criminal penalties, including sentences to prison rather than to juvenile correctional facilities. People who are facing juvenile charges or their parents may want to get help from a criminal defense attorney who is experienced with these types of matters. An attorney might be able to get a transfer of the case back to juvenile court and seek appropriate relief in that venue.

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