The term “sexting” refers to the electronic transmission of sexually explicit, suggestive, or nude photos. It is usually done by cell phone using text messages or iMessage, but it can also be done over social media sites like Snapchat and Facebook.
Some states have enacted specific laws that deal with sexting, but Maryland has not. There is no specific legislative direction on sexting, but it can be prosecuted under child pornography laws in some instances. Teenagers who sext may find themselves prosecuted for a variety of crimes, including child pornography.
Consenting adults over 18 sending non-commercial images in private is generally accepted, and does not carry any risk of criminal charges. The trouble begins if one party is under 18 years old.
Sexting Among Teenagers
Some teenagers are taking and sending photos of themselves, which some people believe should not carry such harsh criminal penalties. The problem is the subsequent distribution of the photo(s), whether it is with or without permission. If the photos fall into the wrong hands, like those of a child predator, the teen can be subjected to harassment, humiliation, and depression.
Sending Inappropriate Message to a Minor
It is illegal to send or show anyone under 18 years of age photos that are sexually suggestive or contain nudity. For example, a 19-year-old girl who sends a sexually explicit photo to her 17-year-old boyfriend could be in trouble.
Possessing Sexually Explicit Material
Maryland makes it a crime for anyone to hold onto an image of anyone under 16 years old who is engaged in sexual conduct. This can include everything from the obvious, like the act of sex, to someone touching private areas of the body, like a woman’s breasts.
Revenge Porn and Sexting
Maryland is one of a handful of states that have made revenge porn a criminal offense. This includes anyone who posts photos online without consent with the intent to cause emotional distress. The crime carries a fine of $500 and up to two years in prison. Other crimes, like blackmail, can increase the sentence. Revenge porn plays a role with sexting, especially among the teenage population when a teen couple breaks up, and the one who received the images then posts them online or shares them with other people. Offenders may find themselves facing more charges under Maryland’s anti-bullying laws, which can include misuse of electronic communication or hazing. Both of these are misdemeanors.
Retaining a Maryland Criminal Law Attorney
Anyone who is convicted of possession of sexually explicit material of a child under 18 years old or child pornography has to register as a sex offender in Maryland. If you or someone in your family has been charged with any of the laws related to sexting, you need to speak with a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney. Any conviction for a crime, especially a sex crime, can have serious life-altering consequences.
The attorneys at the Law Office of Robert R. Castro are skilled criminal defense attorneys and can help prepare the best defense possible. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.