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Is Sexting a Crime?

Wolfe Law Group, LLC Aug. 16, 2022

Back in the early days of cell phones, you could dial up others and even call 911, but beyond that, you were pretty limited to carrying around a clunky, expensive device that may or may not find a network to use when you needed it. 

Japan and South Korea introduced cell phones with cameras in the late 1990s, but you had to download the images to a computer to view them. The first camera phone in the U.S. came in 2002 from Sanyo. These early camera-ready phones were big and somewhat unwieldy. They were a far cry from today’s modern smartphone, which not only takes high-quality pictures but videos as well. 

Pretty soon, smartphone users were sharing photos and videos with one another, and it wasn’t long before sexting – sharing nude and even sexually graphic photos and videos – began between individuals. This immediately brought up the question of whether sexting is or should be illegal. 

Is Sexting a Crime in Ohio? 

If two adults share sexting images with mutual consent, generally that is not considered a crime. But once a picture or video has been sent to someone, it can’t be taken back. That person can share it with others, which can be illegal if it’s shared without consent. The person who received it may object to the image. Or, if the receiver is under the age of 18, this sexting violates a variety of existing laws. A seemingly innocent image between two lovers can suddenly become subject to criminal investigation. 

In Ohio, there are no specific sexting laws on the books, but existing laws – especially as they involve protecting children – can be and are used to prosecute sexting. 

If you are under investigation for sexting or facing sexting-related charges in or around Columbus, Ohio, contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Wolfe Law Group, LLC. A skilled lawyer will work personally with you and provide individualized attention and a tailored defensive strategy. 

The Wolfe Law Group, LLC also proudly serves clients in the areas surrounding Columbus, including Dublin, Westerville, Gahanna, and Hilliard, Ohio. 

What Is Sexting? 

Sexting is sending nude or sexually graphic images over your smartphone to others. When this is done solely between consenting adults, it is not illegal, but when children receive the images, or when the images themselves are of children, then various laws come into play. 

When minors are involved, you can be charged or prosecuted according to child pornography laws, child endangerment, and dissemination of harmful material to minors. It should be noted that sexting between minors is illegal even if one of the participants is 18.  

We’ve all read stories of students in high school sexting each other images of themselves or their girlfriends or boyfriends. Even selfies, if they’re graphic, can be considered sexting. Both sending and receiving can be considered violations if the images are of those under 18. 

Child pornography is a felony, which makes it illegal for anyone to: 

  • Create, share, or possess an obscene image of a minor 

  • Create, share, or knowingly possess an image of a child engaging in sexual contact or conduct 

  • Create or transfer an image of a child's nude 

  • Recklessly possess or view an image of a child in a lewd exhibition of nudity 

Possible Penalties 

Creating or sending obscene, sexually-oriented, or nude images of a minor is considered a second-degree felony punishable by two to 12 years in prison. To be convicted, the offender must have known or should have known the content of the material. Endangering children – the act of encouraging a minor to be photographed nude, or in an obscene or sexually oriented manner is also a second-degree felony, with the same prison term potential. 

Another possible charge is disseminating harmful material to a minor, which is a first-degree misdemeanor if the material is considered “indecent” rather than obscene. If it’s deemed obscene, then the charge rises to a fifth-degree felony. 

Note, however, that these penalties apply mainly to adult offenders. Under-18 offenders are generally given other options, including fines, counseling, community service, and probation 

Experienced Defense When You Need It Most 

In most of the cases that the firm takes on, they are able to settle before you go to trial. This can involve accepting a lesser charge – a misdemeanor instead of a felony – or probation in lieu of jail and other penalties. A team through the years has also forged valuable relationships with prosecutors and law enforcement officials, with whom they possibly can share your side of the story before charges are even levied. 

The most important point is to get involved from the beginning, preferably before you even speak with police or prosecutors. Remember, as the Miranda Rights warning advises, “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” 

If you’re in Columbus, Ohio, or in neighboring communities, contact Wolfe Law Group, LLC immediately when facing a sexting-related investigation or charges. The skilled attorneys serve those in Licking County, Newark County, Delaware County, and more. They will meet with you, listen to your story, examine your legal options, and fight alongside you for the best possible outcome.