Today most parents provide their teens with smart phones with the best of intentions. However, these camera-equipped devices – along with a dose of adolescent hormones – can land them in hot water if they send nude or provocative photos to boyfriends or girlfriends.
What is sexting?
Sexting is sending or receiving a sexually explicit photo or video by text message. Sexting is common among teenage children, especially between boyfriends and girlfriends.
In Louisiana, it is a crime for people under the age of 17 to use any type of electronic device for sexting. In fact, both the sender and the receiver can be arrested for the illegal text if the image is of someone under age 17.
For example, if a 15-year-old receives a photo of a 16-year-old boyfriend or girlfriend, both may be charged with a crime. In this case both would be tried as juveniles. However, if one of them is 18 or older, the image is pornography and the adult will be subject to higher penalties if convicted.
Criminal penalties for sexting in Louisiana
Louisiana is one of the first states to pass legislation specifically criminalizing sexting. As the law races to catch up with technology, it is important to be aware of the penalties for those who decide to take, send or receive illegal images.
- If a person is under 17 and is tried in court as a juvenile, he or she may face a fine, community service, house arrest and other fines that the court finds appropriate.
- If a teenage recently celebrated a seventeenth birthday, he or she can be tried as an adult and may face five to 10 years in prison, up to a $500,000 fine and registration as a sex offender.
Beyond the crime of sexting
When recording or sending any image or video it is important to remember that the images can be very difficult to erase once sent. The viral nature of the Internet can quickly remove the ability to control access to an indecent image that is shared from person to person. A photo shared privately between a couple can quickly pass to an ever-widening group of friends until its distribution has reached thousands of people.
What to do after an arrest
Sexting can lead to ruined personal reputations and the threat of serious juvenile or adult criminal consequences. If you or your teen has been arrested for sexting, seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney at the law firm of Brett K. Duncan & Co. Because the statutes are still fairly new and difficult issues of age, intentionality and the welfare of the child must be considered, don’t delay seeking legal help at the first sign of trouble.