When is Sexting Illegal?
In the modern days, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook messaging, and other apps offer a convenient and flexible way to start and develop intimate relationships online.
As a result, the inclination to create, possess, or share sexually explicit images or videos electronically has become more common.
Under certain circumstances, sexting may constitute a criminal offense in Michigan, especially when one or more of those involved are minors.
To help you understand and avoid the dire legal consequences of a sexting charge, we’ll explore everything about illegal sexting in Michigan.
When is Sexting Illegal?
Before we dive in too deep, let’s first understand what sexting means.
What is Sexting?
Sexting is a term derived from sex and texting. It refers to sending, receiving, or forwarding of explicit or sexually provocative photos, messages, or videos. In most cases, it includes the use of cell phones, computers, or any digital device or platform.
While people of all age groups can use this method of sexual connection, it is more common among tech-savvy teens and young adults.
Studies show that approximately 15% of teens have sent explicit sexual images or videos, and around 27% of teens have received a sext.
What Does Michigan Law Say About Sexting?
In Michigan, sexting is legal between consenting adults. With that being said, eventhough there are not specific sexting laws in Michigan, the act may lead to criminal charges under the child pornography law, especially if minors are involved.
As per the Michigan Penal Code, Section 750.145c, it is a criminal offense to be creating, possessing, or disseminating obscene material to (or involving) anyone under the age of 18 years.
Similarly, any one person who coerces, entices, induces, or otherwise allows a minor to create, possess, or share child sexual abusive materials or engage in a sexually abusive activity, like sexting, may face felony charges. That means you could face criminal charges for asking for, receiving, or sharing nude photos or videos of your 17-year-old (or younger) partner via phone or any electronic means.
Possible Consequences of Illegal Sexting in Michigan
Illegal sexting is a serious criminal offense in Michigan. A conviction could result in a felony-level charge, which often involves a significant amount of time in prison and/or hefty fines.
Being a crime that involves defenseless individuals (minors), prosecutors will almost always pursue maximum penalties and sentences, as stated under the law. Nevertheless, the penalty imposed will often vary based on the state sentencing guidelines and the judge’s full discretion.
Some of the Statutory Penalties for Illegal Sexting in Michigan
- Up to 20 years in prison or a fine not exceeding $100,000, or both, for involving or engaging a minor in a sexually abusive activity, such as sexting (Mich. Comp Law 145c(2)(a))
- Up to 7 years in prison or a fine of as much as $50,000, or both, for distributing or promoting any child sexually abusive material (sending child pornography) (Mich. Comp Law 750.145c(3)(a))
- A 4-year prison sentence or a fine of up to $10,000, or both, for knowingly possessing child pornography/child sexually abusive materials (Mich. Comp Law 750.145c(4)(a))
Please note, these kinds of charges can also fall under federal law, which has even harsher penalties.
Registering as a Sex Offender
Besides the prison time and fines, anyone convicted of illegal sexting must face sex offender registration on Michigan’s public Sex Offender Registry.
In other words, they must provide the local law enforcement agency with personal details, as required by the Sex Offender Registration Act. These include your registerable offense, name, fingerprints, photographs, proof of residence, employment information, vehicle information, and any known aliases – MCL 28.727.
Sex offenders are forced to having their personal information made public for up to 15 years, 25 years, or even life, which can be quite embarrassing. Even worse, it may ruin their freedom, finances, and reputation in society, meaning they will have more trouble getting a job or have difficulty getting into the college of their choice.
Suspension for Students
High school and college teenagers face a wealth of confusing and conflicting new emotions due to evolving sexuality. The task of navigating love and relationships for the first time does not make things any better.
As such, it’s not unusual for students to create, possess, or share racy nude or sexual photos through text messages, Instagram, Snapchat, and digital platforms while in school. When this happens, school-going teenagers may be suspended or even expelled for illegal sexting because of anti-bullying laws.
Other Potential Risks Associated with Sexting
Whether you are an adult or a teenager, sexting can create far worse problems, even if you don’t face legal ramifications.
If, for example, the sexually explicit images or videos end in the hands of a cyberbully, they may use it to harass you (sexual harassment) by:
- Signing you up for inappropriate email subscriptions or porn sites
- Posting sexually explicit messages, nude pictures or videos on social media networks to achieve sexual exploitation (i.e. revenge porn)
Can My Child be Charged with Illegal Sexting?
Certainly! Much like adults, children involved in illegal sexting could face harsh punishment under child pornography laws.
If, for instance, your teenage child persuades their girlfriend or boyfriend to create or share sexually explicit photos or videos, he or she could face potential penalties under Michigan’s 1931 Child Sexually Abusive Material Law (MCL 750.145c).
As a preteen or teenager parent, you have a duty to let your children know the potential legal ramifications of sexting. More importantly, it would help if you reminded them that any message, image, or video they create or send electronically, even if they only share nude photos, has the potential to remain on the internet forever.
Even if they absolutely trust the person they are sending explicit images to, data breaches are inevitable – they can happen anytime and anywhere.
How Do I Handle Sexting Charges in Michigan?
Facing child pornography allegations can be devastating. The implication of a charge or conviction is far more severe, as such a crime carries severe punishment under Michigan law.
With that said, being accused of or charged with child pornography production, distribution, or possession in Michigan does not deprive you of the right to defend yourself. Better still, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll be found guilty just because you have been accused or arrested for this crime.
If you or your teenage child has been arrested, are under investigation, or are facing potential sexting charges, you owe it to yourself to hire a Michigan criminal defense sex crimes lawyer to get the proper legal advice.
A skilled attorney who’s focused on defending sex crimes will help give you the proper legal advice and fight your charges.
With lots of experience, expertise, and legal resources, they will investigate every detail of your child pornography or sexting case so they can understand all the facts. Better still, they will work aggressively to build individualized criminal defense arguments that will challenge whatever evidence the criminal prosecution has against you.
Let Blank Law, PC Fight Your Charges
Even though Michigan does not have specific sexting laws, a conviction could have serious, life-altering consequences.
If you or your teenage child has been arrested for, accused of, or are under investigation for a sexting-related crime in Michigan, Blank Law, PC is ready to help.
Our Michigan criminal defense sex crimes attorney, Nicole Blank Becker, has extensive experience defending clients against sex crime charges.
Regardless of the specific circumstances surrounding your case, she will work with compassion, professionalism, and dedication to ensure that you get the most favorable outcome possible.
Call or text our offices today at 248-515-6583 to book a free initial consultation.