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Penalties for Underage Sexting

Teenagers who exchange sexually explicit images via mobile device can face misdemeanor or felony charges, but the penalties vary according to the ages of the parties involved and depend on issues of consent.

Georgia’s laws endeavor to protect minors from sexual exploitation and abuse. Federal and state laws impose harsh penalties on people who possess sexually explicit images of minors. For example, the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2018 acknowledges that the distribution of sexually explicit images of minors is child abuse, and it enables judges to order people convicted of possession of these images to pay restitution to the victims depicted in the images, even if decades have passed since the images were created. The law does, however, acknowledge the difference between adults exchanging images of horrific images of abuse of young children, on the one hand, and teenagers sending suggestive selfies to their teenaged crush or romantic partner, on the other. While the law draws distinctions between criminal offenses of varying severity and affords rights to defendants, police and prosecutors may try to treat you like you are older than you are and that your alleged crime was more serious than it was. If this happens, you need an Atlanta juvenile crimes lawyer.

Teenagers Can Get Criminal Penalties for Sending Nude Images of Themselves or Other People

It is perfectly legal to send a nude or sexually explicit image of oneself or someone else by text message as long as all parties involved are adults, the person depicted in the image consented to its creation and the person depicted, the person sending the image, and the recipient consent to the exchange. If one of the parties in the exchange of explicit images is an adult and the other is a minor, though, the adult will almost always get criminal charges if someone notifies law enforcement of the exchange. It counts as felony possession of child pornography when an adult possesses a nude image of a minor, even if the minor created and sent the image.

Since 2013, though, House Bill 156 has applied Romeo and Juliet laws, which decriminalize sexual relationships between teenagers close in age, to sexting. If a high school-aged teenager possesses nude images on their phone, the charges are a misdemeanor as long as all of the following conditions are present:

  • The defendant is 17 years old or younger
  • The person depicted is 15 years old or older
  • The person depicted consented to the creation and transmission of the image

Jail time is still a possibility for a misdemeanor conviction, as are probation and fines. If you are 17 years old and currently facing charges for underage sexting, you will most likely be tried as an adult. In 2023, however, a new law will go into effect in which 17-year-olds charged with nonviolent crimes such as underaged sexting will be charged in juvenile court.

Contact Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers About Underage Sexting Cases

A criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are a teenager facing charges for exchanging explicit images with another teen. Contact the defense lawyers at Ghanayem & Rayasam in Atlanta, Georgia about juvenile criminal defense cases.