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sexting & revenge porn laws

Laws involving sexting and revenge porn can vary drastically from state to state. The exchange of sexually explicit images has become so commonplace in schools that some states, like New Mexico, have made it legal between teenagers. Other states, like Idaho, are contemplating statutes making it a misdemeanor between teens. The California legislature is considering a bill that would give schools the power to expel students for sexting. 

In states where there are no specific laws concerning sexting and revenge porn, the possession and distribution of sexually explicit images of minors is typically considered child pornography. It does not matter that they were only shared between a teenaged couple. It is a strict liability crime that could result in prison and a lifelong label as a registered sex offender. Always check the latest developments in the specific jurisdiction where there is a case involving sexting or revenge porn. For help figuring out what to do about these social media laws, see the Your Options page of this website.  

​Federal Sexting Laws: 

  • Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of 2003: It is illegal to produce, distribute, receive, or possess with intent to distribute any obscene visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Knowing possession of such material—without intent to distribute—is also a crime under the PROTECT Act. (18 U.S.C. § 1466A(a)(1).)
  • It is against federal law to cause a minor to take part in sexually explicit conduct in order to visually depict that conduct. Parents who allow this behavior can also be prosecuted. (18 U.S.C. § 2251.)
  • It is against federal law to use a computer to ship, transport, receive, distribute, or reproduce for distribution a depiction of a minor actually engaging in sexually explicit conduct, or any material that otherwise constitutes child pornography. 
  • It is against federal law to promote or solicit sexually explicit material involving a minor. (18 U.S.C. §§ 2252, 2252A.)
  • Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA): Generally encourages juveniles to be prosecuted in state, not federal, courts. (18 U.S.C. § 5032.)


Sexting and Revenge Porn Laws by State: http://cyberbullying.org/state-sexting-laws.pdf

For example, in Texas:

  • Sexting is a misdemeanor for the first offense, while subsequent offenses are also misdemeanors, but with greater penalties.  The minor may be sentenced to community supervision with a condition of fulfilling an educational program that is paid for by the defendant’s parents.  The educational program instructs minors on the issues associated with sexting.  The minor can apply to have the conviction expunged on or after their seventeenth birthday.  It is an affirmative defense if the minor has not solicited the image, obtained the image only after receiving it from another minor, and deleted the image.  http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/84R/billtext/html/SB01135I.htm 


  • Relationship Privacy Act concerning Revenge Porn: Unlawful disclosure or promotion of intimate visual material 
    • (a) A defendant is liable, as provided by this chapter, to a person depicted in intimate visual material for damages arising from the disclosure of the material if:
      • (1) the  defendant  discloses  the  intimate  visual material without the effective consent of the depicted person; (2) the intimate visual material was obtained by the defendant or created under circumstances in which the depicted person had a reasonable expectation that the material would remain private; (3) the disclosure of the intimate visual material causes harm to the depicted person; and (4) the disclosure of the intimate visual material reveals  the  identity  of  the  depicted  person  in  any  manner. http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/84R/billtext/pdf/SB01135F.pdf#navpanes=0 


For more options, see the Your Options page of this website.   

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