I accidentally sexted a minor. What do I do?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I accidentally sent nude pictures to a girl online who I thought was an adult. Will I face criminal charges?” 

Most people understand that it is illegal to send or receive nude photographs or explicit images to and from children under the age of 18. If you have done this, you can be charged with sending and possessing child pornography which is a very serious charge.

Additionally, if you sent nude pictures of yourself to a person under the age of 18 and then enticed them to send photographs to you, this is also a crime. It could also be a crime (disseminating obscenity) simply for you to send photographs of yourself.

Although it does not sound like you tried to entice the child to send photographs to you after you realized they were under aged, if you are charged and convicted of enticement you may be charged with a misdemeanor or maybe even a felony. In some states, you may also be forced to register as a sex offender.

What if I did not know the recipient was a minor?

Although it is legal, albeit not wise, for two consenting adults to send nude pictures via text to each other, this does not mean that there are not some situations in which you might think you are sexting an adult, only to realize later that the recipient was actually under aged. Unfortunately, depending on the situation, this action can be considered illegal and can result in criminal charges.

Now, you mentioned you accidently sent nude photographs to a minor. Given that this could be a criminal offense you need to immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer. The lawyer can help you answer the following questions about your case:

  • Is the recipient actually a minor?
  • How do you know they are a minor?
  • Did the recipient represent themselves as an adult?
  • Have the police contacted you?
  • Did the minor initiate contact?
  • Did you cease all communications with them when you found out they were a minor?
  • Did the minor commit a crime by sending pictures to you?

What if I sent nude photos but the recipient was an adult?

You specifically asked about sending photos to a child, but it is also possible to be charged with a crime even if you sent the nude photos to another adult. For example, if you send photos to someone who does not want to see pictures of your private parts, this could constitute harassment.

Even worse, if you decided to disseminate sexually explicit photographs of another person who did not give you permission to do so, you could also be charged with harassment.

Additionally, if the injured party can prove that your actions injured them- limited their ability to find employment, caused pain and suffering, lowered their reputation in the community- you could also be sued for personal injury.

What happens if you lose a personal injury case? You might have to pay them damages for their losses. Keep in mind, however, a personal injury claim can be filed against you even if you are not charged with a crime.

Bottom Line:

Even adults sometimes lose sight of the fact that if something is sent via text or posted online it can exist forever. Future employers, spouses, and loved ones may have access to the images.

It’s important to also remember that possessing any sexually explicit image of a minor is a crime, distributing any images is a crime, promoting sexual acts with a minor is a crime, taking photos of yourself and sending them to a teen is a crime, and receiving sexually explicit images from a teen (even it they sent them to you without you explicitly requesting them) is a crime.



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