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 Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/06/2011 - 12:56.

What you people don't seem to understand is that there is an age limit. Just like with tobacco sales and alcohol purchases. If we lower the age limit on this now what happens a few years down the road when 13 and under want to be like their big brother or sister and start doing it too? Should we lower the limit even further just because they don't think it's fair that if they were only a couple years older they could do it too? That's pretty much what you're saying we should be doing. You want us to lower it since you're only a little too young. If we do that then as soon as kids are old enough to understand what it is they should be legal. People always say the same thing after all, but I'm only a few years until I reach the age limit, it should be okay. If you're not legally aloud to do it just wait a few years until you are. Like what you're supposed to do. The limits are there for your safety.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 06/26/2011 - 18:42.

Being a teen mom, I understand both sides of this argument. I have sexted several times, but that is MY choice to do so. When sending these risky pictures, it should be known that there will ALWAYS be a chance that they could possibly be spread around. I do feel that punishing these sexts as if they were crimes is rediculous. Kids will be kids, and in this day there's just different ways to put yourself out there.

Men and women who are in their 30s, 40s, etc, made choices just as we do, but they didn't have phones to do it on.

I do agree that teens are a little bit naive when it comes to the possible regrets and emotions involved in this new form of sex, or just sex in general. I am just now starting to learn the negative effects that sleeping with multiple people have. I wish I would've known the pain I have now before I made the choices I did. But this is LIFE. To punish kids for a this type of mistake I think is a waste of time. We ALL make mistakes, we move on, we learn.

Also, putting pictures out through txting I believe is safer than some other decisions. Like unprotected sex and all the consequences that comes with that.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/18/2011 - 16:56.

Ppl are saying that just cuz you send the pic it can end up every where... But even if your spouse takes the picture in person it can still be spread around... Let them do it and learn on their own.... if they want to send em out than let them.... No matter how private you try to keep them they really aren't.. not even on your own phone.. it could be stolen and sent out still... so just let them learn... for real..... Wtf?????

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/18/2011 - 21:56.

Teenagers aren't mature enough to fully understand the consequences they could face over creating and distributing pornographic images of themselves. I'm shocked to read so many comments about how many people think it's okay to let kids create porn using their own nude photos! unfortunately, there are parents out there that don't care much about the well being of their children and that's why the law should get involved.

We have all heard about how many kids inlcuding teenagers are commiting suicide over something like being called fat or ugly. Now imagine a 14 year old girl who's nude picture is all over the school and the girl becomes known as the school whore. How humiliating and emotionally devastating that would be! This is why parents shouldn't allow their children to sext.

Teenagers make mistakes and learn from them but there are some mistakes that people will always regret and may haunt them forever. I'm glad I was mature enough to never sext as a teen because I'm sure it would be my worst regret. I'm 21 now and after 7 years with my boyfriend, I still won't sext him.

Any teens reading this post, take my advice, DO NOT SEXT unless you wouldn't mind sharing that sext message with your entire school because that's most likely going to happen.

Oh yeah, and the posts by all of the 13 year olds opposing the law are ridiculous!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/05/2011 - 21:28.

your letting your moral beliefs get too involved. this issue is about a law totally threatening the freedom of the American people, regardless if one is under the age of 18, they are still a member of the U.S. and we live in a democratic society based on freedom. an unjust law anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere. in this particular case, the government has overstepped there boundaries on telling what Americans what they can and can't do.

Submitted by Evan (not verified) on Fri, 05/06/2011 - 10:29.

I'm 17 & I've engaged in picture sexting & I am offended by your ageist comment. My pictures never got spread to a bunch of other people & I have no regrets. If the police did find out I would kill myself before they locked me in prison forever.

It is inhuman & a waste of tax money to lock teens in prison for sexting.

I've created a petition to legalize sexting.

Submitted by Alezis (not verified) on Mon, 12/26/2011 - 00:29.

Oh hell yeah I agree with u! I hate this dumb law! I love showing off my body. I'm 14! No retard useless piece of junk law is gonna tell me what I. Can and can not do with my body. I think America is going communist! Beside it's us who r paying the bills not the laws. And that bs about it can be spread tO everyone is wrong. None of my pics ever got out.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/10/2011 - 22:25.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 08/07/2011 - 17:45.

This law is to keep teens safe from other teens. This law applys for teens and adults. especially adults sending nude photos to minors and vise versa.

Submitted by Molly (not verified) on Sat, 05/21/2011 - 13:12.

I completely agree with you. In a way, I could understand a SLIGHT punishment involved with sexting/pictures between adults and children, but between teens themselves? I see it this way... It is, in a way, a gift. Would you rather your teen get their sexual thrill from actually having sex and getting pregnant/getting someone pregnant, or a few harmless messages/pictures? And even then, isn't the the PARENT'S responsibility to punish their child if they wish? There are FAR worse things that should be illegal for teens and monitored, not a few texts and pictures. The only logical reason for making it illegal, would be "Teens won't do it, because they're too frightened of being thrown in jail." So, basically, "There are awful things teens do to get eachother killed that are legal, however expressing their new-found sexual interest that every human being encounters? No way!"

Submitted by D.D. Heath (not verified) on Tue, 02/28/2012 - 18:38.

I agree, sexting is no one else's business but the two people who are actually sexting. If teens don't sext I guarantee, that they are out having sex already. Sexting doesn;t cause any harm. It does not give you any diseases. And it does not cause pregnancy. People need to stop trying to control everything. It's ridiculous.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/18/2011 - 16:35.

this is a stupid law since we live in america land of the free its harmless fun besides only the parents sould be in charge of punishment and excepting legal consequences and i got in a lot of trouble for doing this even though i was forced to by a girl i believe thats just a double standard thing but seriously its not a big deal i would let my kids do almost anything espicially after i saw a therapist in my teen years who said i was being bad and stuff like that because i didnt have enough freedom eve my mom let me do almost anything even if my dad said no but they were and still aqre a pain in the but i havent talked to my parents in 45 years they love me i no that but i hate them

Submitted by confused (not verified) on Sun, 08/21/2011 - 12:27.

Did anybody else catch what is said here? "i got in a lot of trouble for doing this even though i was forced to by a girl" and "i havent talked to my parents in 45 years they love me i no that but i hate them" What were you sexting on? A rock and chisel? More likely your still a minor, right? Speak up when you actually have teenage children and are worried about their physical and mental health, not to mention their future. The actions teenagers take affect them as adults.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/25/2011 - 21:34.

I am 21 yrs old and i have sexted before, and I am also going to be an California Highway Patrol officer in a couple months and have learned the consequences that these acts can hold, to say that you would allow your children to do anything because you basically want to be there friend instead of a parent. you say you did bad because you didnt have enough freedom, however kids with no rules do the same thing. It is finding the right amount of both that will make you a parent..Not a friend.. kids got to school to get friends, you have to mold them and give them the right things they will need to accomplish things in the world, discipline (not abuse there is a huge difference), morals, respect, courage, honor, and the goal for self improvement. no matter how hard a child tries not to, we all become our parents, and if you want you kids ( i pray you never have them till you have grown up) " i got in a lot of trouble for doing this even though i was forced to by a girl" ya forced my ass.. become the person you want your children to grow into.

Submitted by bacon (not verified) on Sun, 05/22/2011 - 18:05.

You should probably learn English before you become a cop.

Submitted by Mateo (not verified) on Fri, 01/06/2012 - 18:31.

bacon, you are an ass. just because he had a few damn typos doesn't make him retarded you jerk.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/07/2011 - 13:46.

maybe you should be smart enough to figure out what this person is trying to say and stop being a smart ass.

Submitted by Billy (not verified) on Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:48.

Really???? You're judging them for accidentally miss spelling a word.... you are ******* rediculous!!!!!

Submitted by M@R!N@ (not verified) on Wed, 04/06/2011 - 23:49.

i never knew that was illegal... but wow this was great to find out. this info will help keep me from doing it in the future....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/15/2011 - 02:09.

I never knew ot was illegal but when i did i stopped and now i feel kinda bad about myself so its a horrable mistake i havent done it for two years now tho could i ever still get introuble?? I mean a feloney i found out its illegal when a local girl got into some trouble for it and now i feel totaly sadendn over this it hits hard whenever i think of my mistake and honestly nobody should male the decistion of this under the age of 18 because im pretty sure a felony never goes awaay it could ruin your life it almost has mine i always feel uneasy whenever i jear the word "sexts" since two years ago i have been asked multiple time to send one and iv said no thiz makes me feel a bit more confident and more comfutableabout myself so honestly im just saying if your under 18 you really shouldnt because it could ruin your life amnd sorry my phones all messed uop on spelling

Submitted by Evan (not verified) on Fri, 05/06/2011 - 10:31.

Even though the law puts minors who picture sext in prison & there's lots of puritans out there saying sexting is despicable, it's not. Picture sexting is no different than having sex & it's no different than seeing each other naked at a nudist resort. It's the people supporting the underage picture sexting laws that are a threat to humanity. There is nothing wrong with underage picture sexting.

Here is how the child porn laws should be: If a minor & someone within 4 years of age exchange nude pictures of themselves & keep them between each other then no crime has been committed. If someone sends those nude pictures of that minor to a bunch of other people then there's the crime.

BTW Im 17 & I've sexted with multiple girls & I never faced any consequences.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/25/2011 - 23:42.

I think some teenagers are very forgetful of the fact that once a picture has been sent out on the internet it is there FOREVER. Though phones is just as bad. Let us ponder about what an angry ex-boyfriend is likely to do with those nude pictures on his phone of his ex...

Submitted by Evan (not verified) on Fri, 05/06/2011 - 10:33.

I've sexted before while underage & those pictures were never spread out on the internet.

If a angry ex sends those pictures out thats when it should be illegal.

If they keep the pictures between themselves it should be legal.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/22/2011 - 19:44.

an ex friend of mine has been sexting to 5 different guys since she was 16... i know its illegal, however, when i told the parents they acted like i had no right to say anything and that they will take leagal matters against me. funny thing is, is that she has a full scholarship to a college... i wonder if that college will like her when they find out. One day, it will bite her in the @$$.

The government should also penalize the person sending the texts, they are doing it knowingly, so there is no force involved.

Submitted by corypatterson (not verified) on Tue, 08/23/2011 - 19:17.

I believe that this should be between the parent and the child some parents are okay with it and some are not. That's just like statutory rape some parents are okay with their children dating older men and some are not. But with these laws it's not going to change anything because people are still doing it and teens are still getting pregnant so it's all a big waist of time. It takes a lot for someone to get caught doing these things.

beth bayne from machine expresso nespresso

Submitted by Evan (not verified) on Fri, 05/06/2011 - 10:36.

Same here, I've sexted about 5 different girls since I was 16.
& Im not going to college.

Why did you try to get her in trouble with her parents? Are you trying to ruin people's lives?

The government needs to mind their own ****** business when it comes to teen sexting.

Even though the law puts minors who picture sext in prison & there's lots of puritans out there saying sexting is despicable, it's not. Picture sexting is no different than having sex & it's no different than seeing each other naked at a nudist resort. It's the people supporting the underage picture sexting laws that are a threat to humanity. There is nothing wrong with underage picture sexting.

Here is how the child porn laws should be: If a minor & someone within 4 years of age exchange nude pictures of themselves & keep them between each other then no crime has been committed. If someone sends those nude pictures of that minor to a bunch of other people then there's the crime.

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