Houston Sexting Defense Attorney
According to one major study, the average child in the United States gets their first smartphone sometime between their 10th and 11th birthdays. So by the time your child gets to high school, odds are they will already be dependent on their smartphone for staying in touch with friends. And once your teenager starts dating, he or she may decide to send sexually explicit images of themselves to their partners–a practice commonly known as “sexting.”
This is where your child can get into legal trouble if they are not careful. At the Law Offices of Tad Nelson, our Houston sexting defense attorneys deal with many parents, like you, whose teenagers have run afoul of Texas laws governing sexting. While the penalties for teenage sexting are not as severe as similar charges involving adults, your son or daughter could still be arrested simply for sending a semi-nude picture of themselves to their boyfriend or girlfriend. We can help make sure that an innocent act of teen romance does not lead to a criminal record.
What Texas Law Actually Says About Sexting
Texas has long maintained strict laws against the possession or promotion of child pornography. In legal terms, a “child” is anyone under the age of 18. Any person who possesses or transmits an image of child engaged in sexual conduct is guilty of a felony. This means that a conviction not only means jail time, but also lifelong registration as a sex offender.
Before 2011, Texas law made no distinction between an adult who possessed child pornography and a teenager who voluntarily sent a sexually explicit image of themselves to a partner. Both acts were potential felonies. Many Texas district attorneys believed this forced them to either prosecute teenage “sexting” as a felony, or else not press charges at all.
In response to these concerns, the Texas Legislature adopted a new statute, Section 43.261 of the Texas Penal Code, which defines a separate, misdemeanor-level offense for sexting, or as it is known officially, “Electronic Transmission of Certain Visual Material Depicting Minor.”
Specifically, the sexting law makes it a Class C misdemeanor, rather than a felony, for a person under the age of 18 to send another minor any “visual material depicting the minor” engaged in sexual conduct. This includes images of the sender. In other words, if your 16-year-old daughter sends a semi-nude picture of herself to a classmate, that can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense. Similarly, it also violates the sexting law to possess “in an electronic format” any sexually explicit image of another minor. So if the police find that 16-year-old girl’s naked picture on your son’s phone, he can also be charged with an offense.
What Defenses Are Available in a Sexting Case?
If your child is charged under Section 43.261, it is important to remain calm and contact a Houston sexting defense attorney as soon as possible. Do not try and deal with this matter yourself. Even if you believe there has been a misunderstanding, a sexting charge is still a criminal case, and you and your child will need the services a criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in this area.
The truth is, an arrest does not necessarily mean a conviction. There are, in fact, a number of defenses available under the sexting law that may apply to the facts of your child’s case. For example, there is an affirmative defense under Section 43.261 if your child sends or receives a sexually explicit text message to someone who was in a “dating relationship” with your child at the time. This dating exception only applies, however, if there is less than a two-year age difference between the parties.
It is also a defense to a sexting charge if your child did not actually “produce or solicit the visual material,” or if your child only received the material from another minor and then immediately deleted it. This defense covers situations where one teenager may have accidentally sent an explicit message intended for their dating partner to another teenager.
On the flip side, if your child intentionally sends sexually explicit images to other teenagers with the intent to harass or bully someone, that can be charged as a Class B misdemeanor. For instance, if your teenage son engages in “revenge porn,” i.e., sends a provocative image of his ex-girlfriend to his friends in order to punish her for breaking up with him, that would be considered promoting with intent to “harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another.”
The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates Can Help You Fight Sexting Charges
It is important for you and your children to understand the laws governing sexting in Texas. What begins as innocent teenager flirting can inadvertently lead to a police investigation, arrest, and ultimately a court date. If your child has even been questioned by the police, you need speak with a Houston sexting defense lawyer right away. At the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, we help residents throughout Houston, Galveston, and League City deal with sexting and other sex crimes allegations. Call us at (281) 816-3421 to schedule a consultation today.