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Sexting Laws in Texas

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Sexting Laws in Texas

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Texas Laws on Sexting

“Sexting” is an activity which involves using an electronic device, usually a smart phone or digital camera, to take explicit photos and send them to another person. This activity has increased in popularity as smart phones and high-definition cameras have become more affordable and readily available. Although some people see this as a harmless sexual expression, others are very worried about sexting and the way it might affect minors and children.

When someone sends explicit photos or videos, they may be doing more than causing offense or annoyance. They may actually be violating Texas law. Check out the rest of this article to find out when and why sexting may be illegal.

When Is Sexting Illegal?

It’s important to mention that, for the most part, sharing explicit images with another consenting adult is not strictly against the law. As long as both parties are consenting adults over the age of 18 and they are only sending images of themselves, they will usually not be guilty of a crime.

However, sexting can become an illegal activity if the images being exchanged were taken without consent or if they depict a minor under the age of 18.

For example, Ryan and Megan are both 25 years old and they are in a relationship. Sometimes they send each other explicit photographs of their bodies. They do not share these images with anyone else and they both consent to the activity. They have not broken any laws.

However, if Ryan’s friend Brandon begins sending him “upskirt” photos he has taken of girls under the age of 18, they may both be charged with a crime. This is because they both possessed explicit images of minors under 18 that were taken without consent.

Laws for Minors

The laws in Texas for minors who engage in sexting are unique. At one time, a minor who took a sexually explicit image of himself or herself could be charged with possession of and production of child pornography. Even if the minor only took a photo of themselves and sent it to no one, they were technically in violation of the law.

In 2011, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 407, which amended the legal punishments that are possible for minors under 18 who engage in sexting. Now, instead of being charged with a felony, they can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor if they exchange explicit images with another minor. As punishment, they may face:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • A mandatory education course about the dangers of sexting for the minor and a parent
  • Probation or community service

Although these punishments are strict, under the new law, minors who are convicted of a first-time sexting offense will have the ability to have their record expunged once they turn 18. Most importantly, they will not have to face the requirement of registering as a sex offender.

However, these laws are very different for adults 18 and over.

Laws for Non-Minors

Senate Bill 407 only changed the consequences for sexting for minors, not for adults. Anyone who is over the age of 18 who sends or receives sexually explicit messages of a minor may be charged with:

  • Possession or promotion of child pornography
  • Enticement of a minor
  • Inducing a child to engage in a sexual performance
  • Producing a sexually explicit performance by a child

These crimes are felonies. A conviction for any one of these offenses may be punished with:

  • 10 years or more in Texas state prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Lifetime registration as a sex offender
  • A ban from using Internet-connected devices

A person who is convicted of one or more of these offenses may have to undergo severe restrictions even after they are released from prison. Sex offender registration means that they may be required to provide monthly updates on their address to a supervisory officer and they may have to report any event that will cause them to leave town for more than 24 hours. They will also entered into a publicly visible database which contains their personal information.

The Truth About Sexting

As far as Texas laws are concerned, sexting is an activity that may be frowned upon but not necessarily lead to prosecution, as long as all participants are willing adults. It is only if images of minors or images taken without consent are exchanged that the law will get involved.

However, if that occurs, the penalties can be extremely severe. Anyone who has been charged with this offense may wish to consult with a defense attorney right away to discuss their legal options.

Have you or someone you knkow been charged with a crime related to sexting or distribution of pornography? Time is not on your side. Contact Texas attorney Greg Tsioros today at 832-752-5972.

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