If you regularly send sexually explicit messages, photos, or videos via your phone, laptop, or tablet, you may wonder, “Is sexting legal in Texas?” Many people mistakenly believe that sexting is legal. However, under certain circumstances, you may face criminal charges for sending sexually explicit images, photos, or videos to other people.
Generally, as long as two adults consent to sharing their nude photos or other types of sexually explicit content, sexting is not a crime. However, you may be charged with a crime for sexting with a minor or sharing someone else’s inappropriate images or videos without their consent.
Do not hesitate to contact a Lampasas County criminal defense lawyer if you are facing criminal charges for sexting in Texas. The sooner you get legal advice, the more likely you are to get the charges dismissed or reduced.
What is Considered Sexting?
In order to understand what is legal and illegal when sharing images or videos with someone else, you need to know what conduct is considered sexting. The word “sexting” combines the words “sex” and “texting.”
Sexting refers to one person sending sexually explicit text messages, photos, images, or videos to another person through a cellphone, tablet, computer, laptop, or another digital device.
When is Sexting Illegal in Texas?
While texting is generally lawful when it involves two consenting adults, it can amount to criminal charges under certain circumstances. Let’s review three situations in which sexting is considered a criminal offense.
1. Sexting with a minor
If a person is over the age of 18 and sending sexually explicit messages, pictures, photos, or videos to a minor under the age of 18, that person can face criminal charges for sexting with a minor.
The exact criminal charges depend on the circumstances of the case, the type of content shared with the minor, and how the minor’s sexually explicit photos or videos are used. If you get caught sending inappropriate photos or videos to a minor, you may be charged with distributing harmful content to a minor, codified in Texas Penal Code § 43.24.
If you keep the photos or videos received from a minor when sexting, you may be charged with possession of child pornography in Texas. For this reason, if you received unsolicited photos or videos of a sexual nature from a minor, you should delete them as soon as possible to avoid criminal charges.
Note: You may be charged with a criminal offense for sexting with a minor even if the minor has reached the age of consent (17 years old in Texas).
2. Sexting between minors
While many people, including minors, believe that sexting between minors is not illegal since it involves two minors who consent to sending sexually explicit materials, sexting is a criminal offense if it involves minors whose age is more than two years apart.
3. Sharing inappropriate content without another person’s consent
If someone else sent you their sexually explicit photos or videos, you might face criminal charges for sharing or distributing those photos/videos without their consent. A person may share inappropriate photos or videos depicting another person in order to harass that person. Doing so is illegal under Texas Penal Code.
Sexting and Child Pornography Charges in Texas
Most criminal cases involving sexting are based on child pornography charges. Particularly, a person who engages in sexting with a minor may face criminal charges for possession or promotion of child pornography found in Texas Penal Code § 43.26.
If you knowingly access or possess child pornography with the intent to view it, you may face charges for possession of child pornography. Child pornography is defined as any material depicting a minor under the age of 18 engaging in sexual conduct.
Child pornography possession charges are classified as a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 10 years of incarceration and a maximum fine of $10,000. The charges can be elevated to a second-degree felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. A third and any subsequent conviction is punishable by up to 99 years in prison.
The offense of distributing, producing, and publishing child pornography is a more serious crime than possession of child pornography in Texas. You can be charged with the promotion of child pornography if at least six copies of child pornography are found in your possession.
When Should You Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
Do not hesitate to contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer if you have been accused of a criminal offense such as possession of child pornography after engaging in sexting. It is essential to speak with an attorney to find the most appropriate defense strategy in your particular situation.
Our criminal defense lawyers at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard are committed to helping you get the charges dismissed or reduced. We have successfully defended thousands of clients facing sex crime charges in Texas.
You may be able to avoid a conviction if your lawyer can prove that you did not intend to commit a crime. If you did not know that you received a sexually explicit photo or video depicting a minor, an attorney might be able to successfully defend you to fight against the charges.
One of the possible defenses that you may use is called “entrapment.” Previously, we talked about the entrapment defense and when defendants can use it to avoid a criminal conviction. You may be able to raise the defense if you can prove that you were induced to engage in unlawful conduct (e.g., sexting with a minor) by a law enforcement officer.
Being convicted of a sex crime may result in your registration as a sex offender, which is why it is best to retain a criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights, future, and freedom. (Related: You Have Legal Rights: Exercise Them)
Consult with a Lampasas County Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Contact our skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to discuss your unique case and determine the best defense strategy in your situation. Our lawyers may be able to help you avoid a sexting-related criminal conviction. Call (254) 220-4225 to obtain a free case evaluation.