Sending suggestive pictures or explicit images to another person via the internet or digital devices, like your cellphone, is known as sexting. Sexting, generally speaking, is not an illegal act in Virginia. It can be considered a sex crime, though, when certain conditions or circumstances are present. As a sex crime, you could face state and/or federal charges.
At Bryan J. Jones, LLC, we advocate the rights of our clients as much as we defend our clients. A crime like sexting is often a crime charged out of context. This is a problem because innocent peoples' lives are torn upside down. There's the threat of a conviction that hangs over your head, and that threat can consume their lives when they had no idea what they were doing was wrong. In these types of cases, you may have a fight on your hands, and if that happens, Bryan J. Jones has the skill and experience to work towards an outcome that best serves you.
It's always his intention to get the charges dismissed or you acquitted at trial. Call Bryan J. Jones' office if you have been arrested for sexting-related charges in the greater Charlottesville, Virginia area.
What Is Sexting?
Sexting, as mentioned, occurs when a person sends suggestive images over the internet or via a cellphone. These images are typically pictures of nudity or other sexual material. Often, the images are meant only for the person who was sent it, and that's usually another consenting adult. Teenagers have been known to engage in sexting as well.
In some situations, however, this behavior can be unlawful. Exacerbating it is the fact that once an image is sent, the sender has no control over it, where it goes, who sees it, how it is handled or where it is opened and viewed (like a public place).
When Is Sexting a Crime in Virginia?
Sexting becomes a crime when, for example, an adult sends the image to a minor – someone under the age of 18. This is true even if the sender is 18 and dating the 17-year-old. Examples of potential crimes in Virginia often associated with or charged because of sexting include:
Distributing an obscene item, a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 6 felony for subsequent offenses found under Va. Code § 18.2-374;
Possession, reproduction, or distribution of child pornography, a Class 6 felony or Class 5 felony for subsequent offenses found under Va. Code § 18.2-374.1;
Displaying pornography or obscene video material to children, a Class 6 felony found under Va. Code § 18.2-374.4;
Engaging in an obscene exhibition or performance, a Class 1 misdemeanor found under Va. Code § 18.2-375;
Photographing yourself for distribution, a Class 3 misdemeanor found under Va. Code § 18.2-382;
Engaging in an obscene sexual display, a Class 1 misdemeanor found under Va. Code § 18.2-387;
Engaging in indecent exposure, a Class 1 misdemeanor found under Va. Code § 18.2-387.1;
Stalking a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 6 felony for subsequent offenses found under Va. Code § 18.2-60.3.
It's important to note, too, that a charge can be brought for each sexting image. So, if you send five images to an under-age person, you can face a minimum of five charges.
Also, if an adult is convicted of a sexting offense with a minor, he or she may have to register as a sex offender in Virginia. This can have a serious impact on a person's life.
Another important thing to know is this: revenge pornography is now unlawful in Virginia. For example, if you had been dating someone and as part of your relationship, this person shared images of a sexual nature with you and then later this person ends the relationship, you cannot send those images to a third party as a form of revenge. Revenge porn is also referred to as cyber-harassment. This charge not only carries penalties associated with a Class 1 misdemeanor but the alleged victim can seek compensation under Va. Code § 8.01-40.4,
What Are the Penalties Associated with Sexting Crimes in Virginia?
You can face incarceration and serious fines if convicted in Virginia:
For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail up to twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.
For Class 6 felony, between 1 and 5 years in jail or prison and a fine of not more than $2,500.
For Class 5 felony, between 1 and 10 years in prison and a fine of not more than $2,500.
You can also face civil lawsuits and other collateral consequences.
Can Teenagers Be Charged with Sexting Crimes?
Teenagers, whether in high school or as a college student, engage in sexting. In fact, they are known to do it more so than adults. What they don't realize is that their age puts them in a precarious situation because nude images of themselves can be deemed child pornography. Sexting related to child pornography carries heavier penalties than other forms of unlawful texting.
If the minor is a college student, there is an additional layer of penalties that the student could face. The university, like the University of Virginia, may undertake its own criminal investigation and the student may face disciplinary proceedings. You may find yourself suddenly needing a criminal defense attorney who understands the unique circumstances you face as a student.
Can Sexting Be a Form of Sexual Harassment in Virginia?
If you engaged in sexting with someone who did not consent, then the sexting may be perceived as sexual harassment. A crime specific to sexual harassment and sexting does not exist, but the behavior suffices if:
the recipient does not want the sexting messages; and
the recipient has made it known that he or she does not want it, and yet
you continue to engage in sexting with that person.
Sexual harassment usually involves a person in a position where he or she can wield some type of power over the alleged victim. For example, you may be an employer or supervisor or housing provider. Sexual harassment via sexting can occur when:
you are in a position where your sexting can be perceived as quip pro quo (e.g., the alleged victim will be hired conditioned on engagement with the sexting); or
the sexting creates a hostile environment (e.g., you are a co-worker sexing another co-worker).
The alleged victim could file a sexual harassment complaint. If so, you could face both criminal and civil penalties.
Are There Defenses to A Charge Involving Sexting in Virginia?
The best defense to a sexting allegation is consent. Bryan J. Jones will use every tool at his disposal to defend you against allegations of unlawful texting. This includes an overall strategy to hold the state, the judge, and the jury accountable to the principle that you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Bryan J. Jones will work hard to create that doubt through the strength of his investigative and negotiation skills and his ability to create doubt by effectively challenging the state's evidence.
Contact an Aggressive Sexting Criminal Defense Attorney in Charlottesville Today
If you have been charged with a criminal offense because of sexting, contact Bryan J. Jones today. He will outline your options and then get started on a strong defense.