Sexting Teens facing felony charges for misuse of cell phones

It’s a well documented fact that many teens and young adults have found themselves entangled in legal nightmares as a result of cell phones being used to transmit sexually graphic texts or images. If you are a parent of a teen ...

... you may find insights into the "Why's" of sexting in an article posted March 23, 2009 at
Why teens Sext

What is Sexting?

According to the Urban Dictionary “Sexting” is a term created by the media referring to sending sexually explicit text messages. The term is used by adults who are out of the loop and not by the individuals (often teens) who are actually sending the explicit messages.

What ever you call it, sexting, sextexting, sextextuals, or sext messages, for many parents and teenagers it may well be a sextastropy.

So what kind of legal hot water can a teen find themselves in? These legal entanglements range in severity from federal and state criminal indictments to civil legal battles and have resulted in teens being convicted of felonies and misdemeanors receiving sentences of incarceration in Juvenal prison, or some other type of punishment. Some are now required to register as sex offenders.

It goes without saying that the chain of events that unfolds in our juvenile justice court rooms across the nation involving “sexting” are as different as the people entangled in them. The legal ramifications and outcomes vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; however, if they are mostly due to an adolescents poor judgment, lack of knowledge, or general misuse of a cell phone, then it stands to reason many of these situations are completely avoidable. We all know teens don't necessarily follow all the rules, but at a minimum, they should be educated on the possible consiquence and the laws they may be violating.

In our view, unless other mitigating circumstances exist, teens should not be forced to register as sex offenders for acts obviously brought about by ill-advised adolescent behavior and poor judgment. This is NOT what the sex offender registration program was intended for. We need law makers to take a good look at this and come up with sensible standards. We need family court judges to have lattitude in sentencing these types of blunders where juveniles are concerned on a case by case basis. Yes, there are some youth out there who are violent sex offenders and certainly, they should be treated as such; however, there are many circumstances where, in our view, felony convictions and sex offender registration is not justified.

One judge took the right approach and he is to be commended for his wisdom and courage. Judge Thomas F O’Malley in Cleveland took what we felt was a very productive, useful approach in sentencing eight suburban teens (ages 14, 15, and 16) from Mayfield and Highland heights in the fall of 2008.

These teens were taking provocative nude photos of themselves and sending them through their cell phones to their boyfriends or girl friends. They knew they could get in trouble for it, but did not know they could be charged with a felony. The parents, in complete shock over the photos, didn’t know their kids could be charged with felonies until the prosecuting attorney educated them on the realities for violating obscenity laws.

Under a special sentencing plan agreed on by Judge O’Malley, the defense attorney’s and the prosecuting attorney’s, every teen was ordered to survey 25 other teens in their school to educate them and report back whether they knew having, viewing or sending explicit photos of a minor over a cell phone could result in a felony conviction and incarceration in juvenile jail. In addition, they were mandated get counseling and be assessed under the same guidelines for cases considered sexual offenses. If they comply with the sentencing, the charges will be dismissed.

The teens will come back into Judge O’Malley’s court after a given time to compile the results and present their results. The results may be used to educate other teens in their community and beyond.

A national survey release in December 2008 about sex, technology and teens showed that 20% of teens surveyed had electronically transmitted nude or provocative photos of themselves via internet post or cell phone. 40% had sent sexually evocative texts or instant messages.

If you think you see most of the horror stories on misuse of cell phones in the news and media today, you'd be mistaken. The simple fact is, 99% of these cases never hit the news. The reality is, misuse of cell phones has destroy people’s lives, or at a minimum, turn their lives completely upside down. The actions that cause this destruction are not exclusive to teens. Some adults are just as prone to poor judgment, only they don’t get to talk to a family court judge, they get a criminal court judge. Different rules entirely.

We are conducting research in all 50 states to obtain state laws on cell phone related issues. For many states, there are new cell phone laws being passed. All states are adapting cellular phone laws not only for driving issues, but for privacy issues too.

Sexlaws Research Team
S. Frances
2009-03-08 08:53:56 -0800

Sex & Tech Teen Voices
Sex & Tech Survey pdf DOWNLOAD

Submitted by Nyx (not verified) on Thu, 07/26/2012 - 04:42.

I have sexted and I agree with most the comments how the hell is the government to say if we can sexy or not to a boyfriend/girlfriends and what not. It's ur words you can say as you pleas it's ur freedom of speech. And about sending nude pictures u wouldn't send thouse to anyone but some one I truly truest and have been together for years and is mature and also to air on caution DON'T SHOW YOUR FACE!! It's easy for Ito be placed by face if they do spreed personally I bilieve I you are going to send nudes send them with out your face showing less risk..... And also about sexing to some one that's older well you should look up sextual cunsent ages for your and that persons jurisdiction to make sure they don't end up in jail if you truly "love" them.

Submitted by Katt (not verified) on Wed, 03/14/2012 - 07:36.

Hi, well to start I'm 14 and yes i've sexted before. Now I'm getting older and seeing the consiquences. (even before any come into affect, thankfully)
I supose my point here is that yet i agree that our body is sacred i also agree that young minds get curious. I may just be rambling but this topic is important to every age goup now. Honestly i looked this up because my boyfriend was trying to get me back into sexting but i told him that if thats all he wanted we would be over. He understood and forgot about it, but obviosly i didn't, me and him have been together for a year and have plans to last longer. This is where the problem of the imiturty of.sexting comes in, i stopped because after a few weeks i realized how disturbing this was, and then my parents caught me. Which reminds me of an above comment that parents should give.the disapline, well yes its a waste of presious tax dollers but i think that if the parent finds the.situation approprate for legeal issues to be taken then that is their right. (As u can maybe tell I'm going to attemt to touch basis with each comment i have read)
I really hatte that all of this 15 year olds commented, these type of people that think they arre conserned makes us (the youth) look extremely bad! I think (even if i've done it before) i still believe that if the young cannot be trusted with technology what are we all going to do when its our livrs at state!? I guess this has turned into ranting but i really hope someone reads this and understands what I'm tryinh to say :/
(Please if someone actually cares about this ranting i've done your more than welcome to reply)

Submitted by Sarah (not verified) on Sun, 07/01/2012 - 01:24.

First of all hello Katt. I am 14 as well and have known some people who've sexted before and while I hate to say it, for some it can become an addiction. While it's true adolescents can't always be trusted with technology, there's nothing to prevent us. If there're restrictions, most would retaliate in the end. Sexting should be saved for older people but honestly, we teens do have hormones as well. What most fail to realize though is that most kids do know what we're doing. We know there are consequences we just don't know the severity of them. So yes, while it is our lives I hope they teach us the severity of our consequences and how it can destroy our lives. What takes less than a minute to send, possibly seconds, can destroy our lives forever.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 03/05/2012 - 22:00.

Okay. Sexting can occur without pictures.
How is talking illegal? Hello, freedom of speech.
I do recognize there are child photography laws...but creating a law to stop people from talking, in a certain way, is an easy crime to argue against in court.
The law violates the first amendment if it is disallowing people to speak freely.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/29/2012 - 20:22.

What I don't understand is that a lot of the comments about "consequences" on here are about picture messages. But what about text? I know my boyfriend would never spread my messages around, and I don't say that because "he's a nice guy." I know him and were we to break up, he would take out his anger in other ways. And if it's not imagery it's not child porn (or in my case, just porn) that could fall into the wrong hands. So is it illegal? What's the problem here?

Submitted by Jordan Moscowitz (not verified) on Fri, 02/10/2012 - 05:07.

I believe my son has a girlfriend, because she left a dirty magazine with men in it under his bed. My son is only 16 and I really don't think he's ready to date yet. What's worse is that he's sneaking some girl to his room behind my back. I need help, God! I want my son to stop being so secretive!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/03/2012 - 23:46.

If your son is 16, maybe you should let him date. In 2 years he'll be out of the house! Sit down and have a talk with him about it. Make sure of no distractions or anything along those lines. Be understanding as a mother as well.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 06/17/2012 - 17:59.

He is doing this because you are putting so many restraints on him. You won't let a 16 year old date? You should move away from "stand in front of him with a shield" to showing him how to use a sword. I can guarantee he is mature enough by that age. And as a religious believer myself, I haven't seen someone have their prayers answered by posting them on the Internet, but I guess maybe this is it?

Submitted by Slightly Confused (not verified) on Mon, 01/30/2012 - 21:36.

Im just wondering, but is it just sexting pictures or is it the message itself with or without the picture. Honestly i know many people who sext but without sending pictures, so is that illegal or is it just the photos?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 07/01/2012 - 01:27.

It's actually both however with pictures it's classified as child pornography. However, with sexting there is no way to prove who actually sent it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/18/2012 - 16:34.

i dont think sextin is all that bad i have did it plenty of times im 16 and gay and my boifriend loves it and some of my pictures have been seen by people i didnt want to see it but i wasnt hurt to the point that i wanted to do something horrible as kill myself i simply owned up to it and left it alone and teens who are doing it please be smart put the pics (sent and recieved) and put them on a memory card that way u can take it out when needed to.....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 01/15/2012 - 22:38.

i mean honestly it should not be criminal at ALL if its between 2 people who are both underaged. when its with a person who is a minor and one who is an adult then it should be considered a crime

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/09/2012 - 08:45.

What I don't get is why the gov. has to get involved YET AGAIN in our personal lives. I mean come on! If they have a problem with something like: teacher-->student sexting, parent-->child sexting, older person-->someone underage sexting, etc. than I understand. But when it comes to two/(more) teens sexting eachother, than the only pounishment they should get from someone is their parent. If they know the consequences already, such as humiliation by anyone else who might see, than that's all on them. The gov. can't just tell us what to do with OUR OWN FREE-WILL. Like I said, if they know the bad possibilities coming from sexting and they still decide to do it, let them learn from that mistake. After all, how can you learn from mistakes if people try to prevent them from happening in the first place? I mean, am I right or what? You do, unless you just don't or you don't care, learn from mistakes. It's stupid to tell TEENS not to do something really so harmless. Like I rwad from above: woiuld you rather your child sext, and possibly learn from it, or have ACTUAL sex, or some 'sexual task', and have them get a chance of a disease or end up pregnant? Comparred to that, I'd rather have my child end up sexting than to have sex as a teen. I don't have children yet but just saying..

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/21/2011 - 15:16.

wow some of these comments are so pathetic! i am 16 years old and yeah i admit i have sexted before, never sent of recieved nude photos though because i know the underage photo laws. but really "ive sent my photos to x ammount of boys and im fine" like youre just an idiot. it isn't your body yet, youre a minor. i agree that it shouldnt carry such harsh punishments for just pictures but at the same time it's wrong becaue next thing you know 12 year olds are going to be doing it!(i am making a serious claim, they're trying to act older i know i sure tried to act old when i was younger) and these pictures could spread to the internet, feeding the pleasure of pedophiles. if both parties are under the age of 18 than there shouldnt be a SERIOUS problem such as registering as a sex offender. that will completely destroy their lives and have them turn to illeagl means of employment to make ends meat. like really guys, shut up about sexting for all you know they did send them out but noones telling you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/17/2011 - 19:07.

Im 16 years old i always sexting with my boyfriend.. there is nothing wrong with that i know what im doing... i think this law it just waste of money

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/09/2011 - 01:42.

Who gives a f***? The government has no right to butt in peoples relationships. It's not even peoples parents business. It would be between the people in the relationship. Everyone else can butt out!! Nuff said.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/06/2011 - 21:38.

well does this go for Sexual text messages WITHOUT the pics too?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/22/2011 - 22:11.

First off what man/boy deserves to see your goodies?? I'm 17 years old and live a life knowing that I sent nudes to one boy who happen to be my boyfriend at the time and we broke up guess what he did? He sent those nudes around to not only boys but girls. Then you go on living, going to high school and your embarrassed because now everyone has seen your beautiful body on their phones and only god will know what they do with them next. If they're on the Internet they're there forever. If this boy wants nudes he's obviously way to immature. If they can't see it in person they don't deserve to see it. Even with that you should wait to show off your body because you only get to be pure once!
Also the punishments yes are really redicilous and no one should be allowed to say what you can and can't do with your body. But it's only what people want the best for humans. Though the punishment could go a little differently. But girls you should really think about your life and your body. We are independent and don't need no boy/man to fulfill us especially over nudes!
I don't mean to call the boys out on it but when your knee deep with guys liking you and the reason why they like yu is because your body is shaped different then all the other guys then you know how they really act. Anyways I'm just rambling on. Point is girls don't listen to any boy who is asking for nudes even your own boyfriend!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/09/2011 - 14:42.

so if yer over 18 and send naughty pics it still a felony?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/05/2011 - 16:09.

this is how i look at it the governement needs to look at the people protstatueting then the people who chooses who sees them naked. if a teen wants to mastubate to a pic or message then let them as long as they arent getting pregnant then whats it matter? also its human nature to want sex or things revolving around sex

Submitted by Tina (not verified) on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 07:49.

Well Evan i have no idea who you really are but i'm completely agreeing with like very thing you have been saying.. its funny but yet at the same time your speaking the complete truth...i mean sure it could be bad if the OTHER person you send them to doesn't like it, or if the person you ask to send pix or SEXT doesn't want to then i guess its as simple as that there's really no harm being done.. i mean this might be kinda off topic but... if the person attempts to kill the other person because they feel harassed then i guess that's really not my problem :P

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/01/2011 - 18:01.

Sexting to adults is wrong for teens its perfectly harmless. To me i personally think its discusting but i have yet no room to talk, to waist tax money and space in jail for kids who are alittle curious is stupid. Would parents perfer teens to go out and have sex? NO! Exploitation of our bodys are for us to use in our own way. My friends have sent pictures and some of them have been shown where i live it's a daily basis that people earn the name of a whore. We created techn. this is just a concequence of it. To me underage exploitation to older people should be illega. Were all human we are curious and never think of concequences.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/01/2011 - 17:54.

Sexting to adults is wrong for teens its perfectly harmless. To me i personally think its discusting but i have yet no room to talk, to waist tax money and space in jail for kids who are alittle curious is stupid. Would parents perfer teens to go out and have sex? NO! Exploitation of our bodys are for us to use in our own way. My friends have sent pictures and some of them have been shown where i live it's a daily basis that people earn the name of a whore. We created techn. this is just a concequence of it. To me underage exploitation to older people should be illega. Were all human we are curious and never think of concequences.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/01/2011 - 05:54.

All of you 13 and 15 year olds complaining about this law and how it is dumb, you guys are all brats. First off, you are underage which means you are distrubuting child pornagraphy, which is a FELONY. Do you know what that means? It means you go to jail for a long time. You guys may think you guys are mature enough to handle the consequences of this, but guess what, you aren't! You may think I'm age biased, but I am a 15 year old girl and I think sexting is disgusting. Your body is supposed to be something sacred, not something you share 5 or more guys. I'm sorry but that just makes you a whore. Adn its the same for guys, if you send your junk to 5 or more girls, thats gross. Put it away, no one wants to see that. All of you guys think you are above the law because you think you won't get caught, but they can tract that picture back to you because once its out there, it will always be out there. So if you sext and you get caught, don't be surprised when you get in trouble and where you don't have a cell phone, you're on the sex offender list and your in jail.

Just saying.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/15/2012 - 08:22.

I believe the way most of these 14-15 year-olds are complaining about the laws is unproductive and unwise. It does not disgust me that they would want their partners to see them. That is natural. but there are right and wrong ways to do this. If the he laws exist to protect the minors of this country then they are doing a very poor job. Sending them to prison for a couple of years, and having them register as a sex-offender does not protect or help them. I once heard a story of a guy whose girlfriend sent him a picture of herself naked. The girl sent it at 2 am in the morning. The guy was really tired, and while it sounds far fetched I know its easy to do, and he sent the photo to ALL of his contacts. The guy when to prison for many years and now cant get a job and has no life because he is a sex-offender. The guy was 18 at the time, but his girlfriend was 17. The government is not capable of moderate punishments. So yes parents, go ahead, ground your kids for a year. Get really pissed. Then educate your kids on why it is wrong. And then move on. Our bodies are sacred. My body is sacred. To Me. Not the United States Government. Therefore when you get your kid a phone, tell him this story and exactly what he should and should not do with it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 03/19/2012 - 09:31.

I want to say hats off to your parents they have done a great job rasing you teaching you RESPECT for yourself along with Morals and ethics.Today parents are so busy working and with their own socail life they do not educate their children on these issues.I was raised in the 80's as a teenager we did not have cell phones or computers to send such pictures, but if they did I am quite sure they would have back then.Many teens today love the attention they get from anyone and love to exploit themselves.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/01/2011 - 05:44.

You are all ridiculous if you think its okay for teenagers to be sending naked pictures, that is disgusting. Learn some self-respect.

Submitted by Anonymous on Sun, 10/02/2011 - 11:30.

I, myself, am a big fan of sexting. I'm fifteen years old and I've sent multiple pictures to multiple guys. This law is ridiculous. Why should the government be able to tell me what I can do with MY body? There shouldn't be a punishment ihe pictures are found because isn't them being found enough of a consequence?

Submitted by Ruzi (not verified) on Fri, 06/29/2012 - 01:40.

The problem is that if you allow it, there is a significant risk of abuse, so I think protecting minors is more important, especially since there are other risks involed as well.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/06/2012 - 10:48.

My darling child your body doesn’t become yours until you provide for it. That means Find your own Shelter, food, transportation and medical coverage, etc. For as long as someone else is providing the above for you then do as your told and stop this dangerous behavior.

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