Some states consider underage sexting a prosecutable crime. If your teen has taken and sent sexually explicit or nude photos, depending on where you live, they may be charged with a sex crime. Authorities take this inappropriate material seriously. The possession of these photos can be seen as a case for child pornography. Some states have statutes that make no distinction between a teen offender and an adult.

While some jurisdictions address teen sexting as part of existing child pornography laws, other states use specific sexting laws to punish offenders between the ages of 13 and 17. These laws target images sent between and among teens that affect both the sender and receiver of the photos.

Federal Law

Under federal law, it is illegal to create, possess, or disseminate any sexually explicit image of a minor. The law addresses both the possession with the intent to distribute as well as possession without such an intent. The law forbids the act of enlisting or coercing a minor to take part in any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct. Federal law also prohibits soliciting or encouraging the production of such images. These federal laws pertain to adult offenders as well as minors. However, juvenile crimes are not prosecuted in federal courts, but instead are handled in state courts.

Laws Vary by State

New Jersey implemented a law in 2012 to specifically address underage sexting to differentiate it from child endangerment crimes perpetrated by adults, which are treated more harshly.

Receiving versus Keeping

It is nearly impossible to prevent someone from sending an explicit image to your phone or computer. Therefore, the law kicks in with regard to what the recipient does with the image. If the recipient immediately deletes the offending image or it can be proven that they attempted to do so, then it is unlikely that prosecution will be pursued. However, if the recipient holds onto the image, they may face charges. If the image is forwarded on, the violation becomes worse.

Over-18 Offenders

Sexting laws explicitly address the practice of minors who exchange inappropriate images. However, the consequences for those over 18 can be much more serious. If a person over 18 retains images of a person under the age of 18, they may face a child pornography charge.

Consenting adults are free to exchange content depicting adults. If the content involves a minor, however, that is unacceptable and punishable under the law. Likewise, the material cannot be shared with a minor, or that constitutes a crime as well.


A teen charged with sexting is subject to penalties ranging from counseling to jail time depending on the seriousness of their actions. Some are required to pay fines or perform community service; others are forced to register for life as a sex offender.

Haddonfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Aita Law, LLC Defend Teens Accused of Child Pornography

If your teen engaged in sexting and has been charged with a crime, the Haddonfield criminal defense lawyers at Aita Law, LLC can help. Call us today at 856-287-7800 or contact us online to set up a free consultation. Located in Haddonfield, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout South Jersey, including Cherry Hill and Camden County.