As a result of media attention and the prevalence of devices such as smartphones, sexting has become something of a popular topic. With this in mind, the following is information on what constitutes a sexting offense, when it is in violation of the law, and what penalties are applicable. To learn more about sexting and other sex crimes, call and schedule a consultation with a Fairfax sex crimes defense attorney today.
Sexting by itself is not a crime under the laws of Virginia. There is no offense called “sexting” and there’s no offense that encompasses sexting alone. It typically becomes a crime when a minor is involved because in Virginia possession of child pornography is a class 6 felony punishable by up to five years in jail and the second offense can be even more time in jail. If there’s a child involved in the sexting it will often be charged with a crime of possession of child pornography-which is obviously a very serious offense
Additionally, creation of child pornography is a crime. This can be the taking of pornographic pictures of minor or even requesting pictures of that kind to be taken. That charge is also a felony and if a child is less than 15 years old it’s punishable by five to 30 years in prison. If the child is 15 years of age to 18 years of age and you have either created or caused the individual or the minor to produce pornographic images, it’s still a felony and punishable by one to 20 years in jail. There are also increased penalties if the age difference between the defendant and the victim is more than seven years.
Although sexting between adults is not a crime, when someone under 18 is involved in sexting it becomes a serious offense punishable by a significant amount of time in jail and even having a picture of that type on your phone can result with you being charged with possession of child pornography. If there are multiple pictures the prosecutor can bring a felony charge for each additional image and then charge each as a second or subsequent offense. So although sexting by itself is not a crime in Virginia, it can be charged as a crime depending on who’s involved.
Sending unwanted pornographic images in Virginia to someone can be considered harassment under Virginia law. It would be encompassed in the general harassment code section. There is not specifically a crime for harassment by sexting, but certainly sexting someone who does not want to be sexted and has made that known to the sender can be a crime in Virginia.
There’s also a newly crafted law in Virginia that punishes revenge pornography meaning that if you have pornographic images of someone that was given to you in a consensual manner and you then send it out to a third party out of revenge you can be charged with a crime. So although sexting itself hasn’t been addressed by the Virginia legislature it does fall into some other broad categories and can be a crime.