What penalties might a teen face for sexting?

Young Teen Girl Sexting on Cell PhoneSexting is the sending of nude or sexually suggestive photographs to others through a text message. This is becoming an increasingly common practice among teens. However, sexting is a crime in Virginia. While some states have enacted laws making the penalties less harsh when the sexting is between teenagers, this is not the case in Virginia.

What Is the Crime of Teen Sexting?

There is no specific crime of teen sexting in Virginia. Instead, a teenager would be charged with a state or federal child pornography offense. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-374.1:1, it is a crime to be in the possession of or to distribute child pornography. This includes creating, possessing, sending, or resending sexually explicit pictures of minors under 18 years old through text messages. There is no distinction between adults and juveniles under this law.

Because sexting is charged as a child pornography offense, it is a felony in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If convicted, a teen may face these penalties:

  • First offense. A first offense of possession of child pornography is a Class 6 felony. Upon conviction, a person may face up to five years in prison.
     
  • Second offense. A second or subsequent violation would be a Class 5 felony. The sentence may include a prison sentence of 1 to 10 years and a fine of up to $2,500.

A teenager charged with sexting may be prosecuted in Virginia’s juvenile court system rather than the adult criminal court. In this situation, the judge would have more discretion in the punishment imposed if a teen is convicted.

Contact Our Experienced Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help

Has your teenager been charged with a child pornography offense for sexting in Fairfax or Northern Virginia? We represent clients facing both state and federal charges. Our skilled criminal defense lawyers can put on a strong defense to the charges he faces so that they are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Call our Fairfax office or fill out our convenient online form to schedule a free consultation today to find out more about how we can assist you.