Is Sexting a Crime?
“Keep it in your pants” is generally pretty sound advice. Unless you’re in the bathroom or getting ready for bed, there’s really not a whole lot of good that follows unzipping your pants anywhere else. However, when two people like each other very, very much… sometimes… you take off your pants and send each other pictures. It’s 2023, okay, welcome to the future. “Sexting” isn’t anything new -we’ve been using the term since 2007- and generally, as long as everyone’s in agreement, sexting is perfectly legal. However, in the great state of Arizona, there are a few situations where sexting is criminal - and I’m not talking about because of your lighting choices.
Sexting, by definition, is the consensual exchange of explicit images of one’s self with another person. As long as both parties are in agreement and of legal age, everything here is perfectly legal. However, if the sexting is one-sided, then things get a little dicey. The unsolicited sending of an explicit image to another person can actually be criminally charged as harassment, a Class 1 Misdemeanor which can come with a sentence of up to six months or three full years of probation.
The policing of sexting is much harsher when the sexter, or sexters, in question are minors. Arizona has laws in place that are designed to both protect juveniles from putting themselves in jeopardy of becoming the victims of unwilling or unintended sexual extortion - “sextortion”- and to eliminate the unwitting creation of child pornography.
Under ARS 8-309, anyone in Arizona under 18 is legally prohibited from using any electronic device to take or store images of themselves or anyone else under 18 that are sexually explicit in nature. That’s right - in Arizona, a minor can be charged for possessing a nude photo of themselves. The legal intentions here are good: the law is designed to prevent the creation and possible distribution of child pornography. The possession or distribution of any such images is a Class 3 Misdemeanor, which can carry a sentence of up to 30 days in jail.
Things become much more serious if sexting occurs between a minor and an adult - even in a situation between a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old. In said case, any adult in possession of sexually explicit material of a minor is looking at a Class 2 Felony, carrying a sentence of 5 to 12.5 years in prison. Furthermore, distribution of this material carries additional charges of either a Class 4 or a Class 5 felony, both punishable by an additional minimum of one year in prison.
In what could only be described as the most awkward conversation with your parents, they might hit you with a “well back in my day you actually had to go over to someone’s house to see them naked!” And, for all intents and purposes, maybe they were right. What happens behind closed doors tends to stay behind closed doors -what happens over the internet tends to become everyone else’s business, very fast. Thankfully, the law provides for confidentiality between lawyer and client, so call us today at Palestini Law if something that wasn’t supposed to get out got out. We can keep it in our metaphorical pants.
JAMES P. PALESTINI
Originally from Toronto, Canada, James Palestini relocated to Arizona where he received his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Studies with a minor in Criminology from Arizona State University. James then attended law school at Phoenix School of Law where he earned a Juris Doctorate degree. While pursuing his doctorate, James interned at a criminal defense firm in Scottsdale, Arizona. James handled a multitude of criminal cases there, including felony, misdemeanor and criminal traffic matters.