In generation after generation, teenagers have always shown a lack of prudence and common sense; though the precise acts have differed depending on the decade. These days, one of the more common lapses in judgment involves taking nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves with their smartphones and sending these images to someone else.
Few argue that ”sexting” can lead to negative consequences. But should teens be charged with a crime for this activity?
Many states believe so. Seventeen U.S. states call for criminal charges against those who “sext,” and the offense is a felony in five of those states. Nine states have laws that are specifically targeted toward underage sexting.
Washington does not have a specific sexting law on the books. Instead, the offense is usually prosecuted under the charge of “communication with a minor for immoral purposes” when one or more of the defendants are under 18 years of age (even though the age of consent for sex in Washington is only 16). The crime is a Class C felony, which can carry a fine of up to $10,000 and/or a prison term of as many as five years. However, minors who are convicted of sexting are usually adjudicated in the juvenile justice system, where the penalties are much less stringent and the judges have more leeway in administering sentences.
It's important to note that if a person 18 years or older sends or receives a sext from someone who is under 18, the person could be charged as an adult – even if he or she is still in high school. If your teenaged son or daughter has been accused of sexting by police, make sure to engage the services of an experienced defense attorney to handle your case.