Sexting involves sending or receiving sexually explicit messages via a webcam, smartphone, app, or other technology. It entails sending flirty messages, graphic movies, and intimate images online. The act is typically lawful if it takes place between two consenting adults in California. But if one of the participants is a juvenile (under 18), it can lead to severe criminal penalties. If it leads to harassment, violation of privacy, or stalking, it could also be a crime.

If you are facing sexting allegations in California, it is crucial to comprehend the specifics of your accusations, the potential legal repercussions, and your alternatives. It is advisable to work with a knowledgeable sex crimes attorney. Our skills as Sex Crimes Attorney allow us to defend your rights and assist you in mounting a solid defense so that you can win your case fairly.

Legal Meaning of Sexting

Technology development has altered how people socialize and have pleasure. Technology today links people from all backgrounds. People are doing so much more online from the comfort of their homes in place of social occasions that would need you to go out hunting for friends and a good meeting site. Technology is beneficial in many ways, but it has also given rise to numerous liberties that, if violated, could lead to criminal penalties. It is vital to be aware of your limits, even when communicating with people online, to avoid dealing with the terrible repercussions of a criminal conviction.

One of the entertaining pastimes made possible by technological advancement is sexting. Individuals can quickly and discreetly share information, images, and videos. However, sexting is only permitted when it takes place between two willing adults and does not cross the line into harmful forms of stalking, harassment, or invasion of privacy. You could face prosecution for your sexting behavior if it is unlawful, and you could be guilty of a misdemeanor or felony. The specifics of your case will determine the type of charges you will face.

If you send sexy messages, intimate images, or graphic films to someone electronically without their agreement or if the recipient is a juvenile, you could face sexting charges. Sexting is not just sending or receiving sexual content; it also includes several other behaviors that can give rise to legal action, like the following:

  • Sending a person sexual messages with the intent to harass, annoy, or threaten them.
  • Storing on your computer or smartphone nude or sexually explicit videos of a youngster that you have obtained through sexting.

According to the offense's nature, prosecutors charge sexting under various statutes. The most prevalent of these statutes are as follows:

  • PC 288.2 prohibits conveying harmful data to entice or arouse a minor's sexual interest.
  • PC 311 regulates child pornography.
  • PC 646.9, laws against stalking.

You can face misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the seriousness of your sexting offenses and your criminal background. A conviction can lead to jail or prison time and other potentially life-changing repercussions, including being included in the sex offender registry. Therefore, if you face criminal accusations for sexting, it is advisable to retain the services of a qualified sex crimes lawyer. A knowledgeable lawyer will know the finest defense strategies to have the court drop or downgrade your charges.

How Prosecutors Handle Sexting Cases

Keep in mind that sexting between consenting adults is typically allowed in California. The prosecutor cannot bring sexting charges against the alleged offender if there is no evidence that one party was forced to act or was under threat or coercion. Prosecutors typically approach sexting cases differently based on the following information:

  • If the participants were willing adults.
  • If it involved a minor.
  • If one person ended up downloading an obscene film or photo of a kid and saved it to their phone or computer,
  • If the goal was to annoy, intimidate, or harass someone else.

Sexting Between Consenting Adults

Sexting is accepted as legal if it takes place between two consenting adults. Adults can send and receive texts, photos, and videos via electronic devices. You would not face prosecution if another adult permitted you to send them graphic or obscene images or materials.

Example: James and Nelly are deeply in love despite residing in different towns. They send each other explicit texts and social media DMs to keep their relationship fresh. Since two consenting adults are involved, none has broken any laws.

Sexting Involving a Minor

When a child is involved, sexting presents a legal challenge. Whether the minor permitted sexting is irrelevant. In the following circumstances, the prosecutor will bring charges:

  • When an adult sends a minor a sexual massage.
  • When a minor messages another minor in a sexual manner.

Sharing sexually explicit material with a minor to seduce them is against the law. Remember that you cannot cite consent as a justification to avoid facing charges for sexting a child. 

Example: Erica, the 16-year-old daughter of John's boss, is attracted to John romantically. John is 27 years old. Erica has recently received flirting messages from him. To his astonishment, Erica replied to his emails favorably. Since then, they have been sexting nonstop.

Even though it appears Erica agrees to the sexting, Erica is only a minor, and John is an adult. John is sexting her in this situation, which is against the law. He can face criminal charges and a conviction due to his acts.

Saving Nude or Explicit Images of a Minor

Sexting also becomes criminal if the participant saves obscene or nude pictures of a youngster on their computer or smartphone in addition to sexting the child. That can amount to having child pornographic material illegally in your possession. If you have sexually explicit materials or content that features children under 18, you are guilty of possessing child pornographic material.

Sexting to Threaten, Harass or Annoy Another Person

If you use sexting to harass, annoy, or threaten someone else, it is against the law. The judge can find you guilty if the prosecutor can show that you intend to cause injury to someone else.

Example: Jude has always adored Rita, the best friend of his younger sister. Despite his incredible efforts, Rita has never shown much affection for him. Jude began sexting Rita on his phone out of frustration. Rita ignored the messages until Jude started posting pornographic remarks on her social media profiles and sending pornographic emails. She informed the police about the incident.

Jude used sexting to harass, threaten, and annoy Rita. He can face stalking charges, which punish sending harassing and threatening messages to annoy another person.

Can Sexting Result in a Jail or Prison Sentence?

If caught sexting, you could face prosecution and be jailed or imprisoned. The specifics of your case will determine the seriousness of your charges and sentence. You could face charges for sexting in California:

Charges under PC 288.2

Sending inappropriate or graphic content to a youngster could result in penalties under this law. Sharing sexually explicit texts or photographs with anybody under the age of 18 is illegal if done for the following reasons:

  • To sexually stimulate either the minor or oneself.
  • To sexually entice the child.

Remember that it is illegal to share inappropriate material with children in any way. Sexual content can be considered harmful material in this situation. It is because it could seduce a minor into engaging in physical contact-based sexual actions.

But for the court to declare you guilty of sexting under this statute, the prosecution must first establish each of the following components beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You intentionally sent, shared, or displayed harmful content to a minor through any channel, including the Internet.
  • You sent harmful material to a minor, knowing or having a good reason to know they were a minor.
  • You intended to manipulate the minor's or your passions, lust, or sexual desires at that moment.
  • You wanted oral copulation, sexual contact, or sexual actions with the minor.

Note: The prosecution need not prove that you and the minor had physical contact.

Content is harmful if it satisfies the following requirements:

  • It portrays or characterizes sexual behavior in an objectionable way.
  • A sane individual would recognize that the content has no aesthetic, political, scientific, or literal significance for a young person.
  • An average adult can infer that the material appeals to lust or sexual curiosity.

If the content has an educational purpose, it will not be considered harmful.

Child Pornography Charges

It is unlawful to intentionally send, copy, transport, advertise, print, or have child pornographic material. This law also makes it illegal to recruit or induce youngsters to participate in creating child pornography. If the following statements are accurate, you are guilty of child pornography:

  • You sexted a child.
  • You stored one or more graphic pictures of a minor on your computer or smartphone while sexting with them.

An explicit or sexual image of a minor is considered in your possession if:

  • You knowingly save it on your electronic device.
  • And you are aware that the content in your possession includes a person under 18.

Charges for Making Annoying Calls

If your sexting behavior intends to irritate the other person, the prosecutor can seek charges under PC 653m. According to the legislation, it is unlawful for anyone to contact another individual via text or phone in an offensive manner. You violate this law if:

  • You sent an offensive, sexual, repetitive, or threatening text message to another person.
  • You purposefully acted in such a way as to irritate the person.

Even though the law primarily prohibits obnoxious phone calls, it also covers emails, phone calls, and text messages.

Stalking Charges

PC 646.9 is the law that makes it illegal to follow, harass, or threaten someone to the extent that they fear for their safety. If you send text messages to another person intending to harass or threaten them, you could face stalking charges. According to this statute, the judge can declare you guilty if the following facts pertain to your case:

  • You threatened or harassed someone else.
  • Because of what you did, the other person became concerned for their safety.

Possible Penalties for a Sexting Conviction

Depending on the charges you are up against for illegal sexting, you can face different penalties. Depending on the specifics of your case, sexting can result in misdemeanor or felony charges. Some of the offenses for which you can face charges are wobbler offenses. It means the prosecutor can charge you with a felony or a misdemeanor.

The majority of teenagers accused of sexting are tried in juvenile courts. They will probably be sentenced to community service, curfews, and therapy as punishments. However, adults can be subject to more severe charges in adult criminal courts.

Note: Even after filing criminal court complaints, sexting victims can bring civil lawsuits against the offenders. They can recoup their losses, including emotional distress, through a successful civil complaint.

Misdemeanor Charges

If you send annoying text messages that violate PC 653m, you will probably face a misdemeanor charge for sexting. The following punishments are likely to be imposed on you if the court finds you responsible for breaking this law:

  • A maximum of six months in jail.
  • A court fine not exceeding $1,000.

Wobbler Charges

You could face a misdemeanor or felony charge if the prosecution files charges under PC 288.2, PC 311, and PC 646.9 since they are wobbler offenses. The prosecutor will consider your case's facts and criminal history while deciding whether to bring misdemeanor or felony charges.

According to these statutes, a misdemeanor conviction carries the following penalties:

  • A maximum of six months in jail.
  • Misdemeanor probation.

A felony conviction could result in the following penalties:

  • Between three and five years in prison.
  • Felony probation.

The judge will sentence you to probation rather than jail time if you are fortunate. You can serve all or a portion of your sentence on probation without going to jail. Even so, the judge will impose stringent probationary requirements on you, which you must adhere to. Probation for misdemeanors can range from one to three years. Probation for felonies can last up to five years. Following a sexting conviction, you can be given the following probationary requirements:

  • Serving the community.
  • Reporting on progress to the judge or probation officer.
  • Maintaining legal compliance while on probation.
  • Paying court fines and restitution as the judge has deemed necessary.

Other Consequences of a Sexting Conviction

In California, severe penalties apply to sexual offenses. As a result, if you are found guilty, you can also face penalties, jail time, and a significant fine.

For example, a conviction will leave you with a damaging criminal record that can still impact your life years after serving. Due to your criminal history, those who do background checks, like employers and landlords, will be reluctant to engage you. A potential employer can reject your application even if you meet the requirements.

You could lose your gun rights after a felony conviction. While people in California are permitted to own and possess firearms, as long as they have a license, they can lose their gun rights in certain situations. After a guilty verdict for a felony, you can lose your ability to purchase or own a gun. If you previously owned a firearm, you will be forced, upon conviction, to sell it or turn it over to the authorities.

If exchanging or retaining sexually explicit photographs and videos of children occurs while sexting, it can also be a crime of moral turpitude. Your immigration status can be affected in that situation. Moral turpitude offenses result in deportation and being barred from entering the United States. After being deported, you can lose all you have worked for over the years, including your job, family, and possessions.

A necessity to register on the sex offender registry is also a part of some sexting-related crimes. You will be obliged to register on a sex offender registry for ten years or life if the court deems you guilty of a felony sex crime for sexting. The clause is included in PC 290. Being included in the sex offender registry will alter how people regard you because the registry is accessible to the general public.

If the court requires you to do so, you must renew your registration every year, five days before or after your birthday. You must update your information whenever you make changes, like your address. Criminal charges can be brought if this is not done. The specific sex crime that requires registration will determine the charge you will most likely receive for failing to register.

How To Defend Yourself Against Sexting Charges

To prevent the severe repercussions of a sex crime conviction, it helps to know that you can defend yourself against sexting accusations. With the aid of an accomplished sex crimes lawyer, you can accomplish this. Fortunately, if aggressively employed, your lawyer will have several defense tactics that can persuade the judge to drop or downgrade your charges. Some of these tactics include:

The Alleged Victim Was Not A Minor

Keep in mind that sexting between consenting individuals is primarily legal. If the other person was a child, you could face legal repercussions even if they consented to sexting and replied favorably to your sexts. A minor cannot consent to sexual activity, including sexting. The judge will drop your charges if you are confident that the person you were sexting with was an adult. Your lawyer must prove the alleged victim was an adult when you committed the offense.

You Did Not Know You Had Sexual Images of a Minor on Your Device

PC 653m makes it illegal to intentionally save sexually explicit or graphic photos of children on a computer or mobile device. You must have held the images or films on purpose, knowing full well that the person shown in them was a minor. The images could have been saved by someone else without your knowledge, or the device could have automatically saved the pictures. Without that information, the prosecution cannot establish your case beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge will not find you guilty in that situation.

The Material Had a Legitimate Purpose

If done for sexual stimulation or to lure a minor, sending sexual or explicit material to them is prohibited. The judge would not declare you guilty of sexting if your conduct were justified. The criteria for sexting and related offenses are not met by explicit material used for legal purposes. For example, you could have given minors access to some educational, medical, or scientific materials. An aggressive sex crimes lawyer can persuade the judge that your motives were honest.

Illegal Search and Seizure

If the police misbehaved during the search and seizure, your attorney could use this as a defense. If the police searched your person or property without a valid warrant, the defense would be effective. Before performing any search, the police are required by law to acquire a search warrant. The judge would throw out any evidence obtained through an improper search if the arresting officer lacked a search warrant or went beyond the parameters of their search warrant.

You Are a Victim of Police Entrapment

The police typically arrest people on sex-related charges following an undercover operation. An officer can occasionally impersonate a child to seduce an adult into sending them sexts. If that occurred to you, you could claim that you were the victim of entrapment and that the officers tricked you into committing the crime. If the police had not enticed you into sexting, an aggressive sex crimes attorney will persuade the jury that you would not have committed the crime.

Find an Experienced Sex Crimes Attorney Near Me

You must be pretty worried, freaked out, and perplexed if you face criminal charges in California for sexting. What will happen to you following your arrest is difficult to foresee. However, a knowledgeable sex crimes lawyer can assist you in navigating the complex legal system, comprehending your charges, and determining your options. You will have a lawyer by your side during the arduous process until the judge issues the ruling. At Sex Crimes Attorney, we can assist you in mounting a solid defense against your accusations. Our knowledge of sex offenses allows us to employ the most effective strategies to win your case. You could escape a conviction and its repercussions in this manner. To find out more, contact us at 888-666-8480.