Everyone agrees that sex crimes are unacceptable, but that doesn’t mean the laws and boundaries around sex crimes are always crystal clear. For example, some of the most common questions people seem to ask us are, “is it illegal to sext between adults?” and, “is it against the law to post a picture of someone without their consent?” While sexting between two consenting adults is not a crime, the penalty for illegal sexting can be devastating, ranging from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. If you or your child have been charged with a sexting crime, get help from a Plano sex crimes lawyer.
Sexting between two adults in a consensual setting does not break Texas’ sexting laws. However, sexting can become a crime when private photos are shared without the consent of the person in them. The legality of sexting also often depends on the age of the person sending or receiving sexts.
The sexting laws in Texas Penal Code 46.261 describe sexting as being “the electronic transmission of certain visual material depicting a minor.”
According to Texas law, a sexting crime occurs if a person knowingly:
In both scenarios, Texas law requires that the accused must have either a) produced the visual material themselves, or b) known that another minor did so, in order to be convicted of a crime.
A teen charged with sexting could be facing a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed $500. However, Texas sexting laws do make exceptions with regard to sexting charges for minors. Teenage sexting is not considered a crime in Texas as long as the person sending the message is the only person seen in the visual material, is no more than two years older than the recipient, and the two are/were in a dating relationship at the time of the sexting.
Individuals over the age of 17 can get into legal trouble for sexting in the state of Texas whether they’re sexting with a minor or another adult. Section 21.16 of the Texas Penal Code says it is illegal to post an explicit image of someone without their consent. When an adult intentionally distributes or discloses photos or videos of another adult engaging in sexual activity, they must have the consent of the individual depicted in the material.
Sending or posting photos or videos without the consent of the individual engaging in sexual activity within the photo is considered a class A misdemeanor in Texas sexting laws, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000.
Adults caught sexting with minors are in even bigger trouble with Texas sexting laws. Receiving, sending, or exchanging sexually explicit visual materials with a minor is considered possession of child pornography, regardless of consent. If caught, you face a 3rd-degree felony that can be upgraded to a 1st-degree felony if you knowingly shared or distributed these sexually explicit materials electronically or through any other means.
Many wonder if the statute of limitations on sexting in Texas can help their case, and whether or not a mistake from their far-off past could still come back in the form of legal trouble.
For a more serious sexting accusation like those involving child pornography, Texas sexting laws state that the statute of limitations can be as long as 20 years. However, if the sexting accusation involved only adults, the statute of limitations could be anywhere between 3-10 years, depending on the specifics and severity of the case.
In general, the statute of limitations is useful only for keeping your case out of court and is not typically used as a strategy in court.
If you, your child, or a loved one have been charged with a crime related to sexting, the clock is ticking. Texas sexting laws can be harsh, and hiring an experienced Texas sex crimes attorney is the only way to get your case under control and prevent harmful allegations from ruining your life. With decades of experience on both sides of the courtroom, Doug Wilder and his team at the Wilder Law Firm know both the prosecution and defense strategies that can make or break your sexting case in court.