As the internet grows and continues to cement itself as our primary means of social interaction, communications that would normally only be possible physically become common over the airwaves. The abundance of video and audio devices available at the tips of our fingers make it attractive and simple to reach across the country or even the world and chat in real time with our loved ones. The internet and communication through its channels have become an integral part of modern life. As those interactions have become more and more ubiquitous, criminal charges related to electronic communication have begun to emerge.
You have probably heard of the term “sexting,” and may have even participated in exchanging racy text messages or photographs with another person. What you may be surprised to learn though, is that in some instances, sexting is a serious criminal offense. For the most part, sexting is a completely legal pastime, but when the participants in the conversation are underage, the police and prosecutors can get involved. As always, the criminal justice system thinks that it knows how best to protect our children, and had decided to do that by criminalizing otherwise normal conduct. If your child has been accused of or arrested for a sexting charge, you should not hesitate to contact a dedicated Sarasota criminal lawyer to begin building a defense.Elements of Sexting
Sexting is specifically criminalized under Florida Statute 847.0141. Under the terms of the law, a minor—anyone under the age of 18—can be convicted of the crime of sexting if he or she knowingly uses a computer or any other device that can transmit electronic data, in order to transmit a photograph or video of any person that both depicts nudity and is harmful to minors. A minor can also be convicted of sexting if he or she is found to be in possession of an image distributed by another minor that depicts nudity that is harmful to minors.
This may all seem like relatively normal conduct by teenagers, but unfortunately the state believes that it knows best, and if your child is convicted of this offense, he or she could be facing serious penalties. A first violation is a noncriminal violation. But the defendant will be required to appear in court, complete community service work and participated in a cyber education program. A second offense will be considered a first degree misdemeanor criminal offense. And a third offense will be charged as a third degree felony. There can be significant penalties associated with a conviction for sexting, so you should not hesitate to consult with a skilled Sarasota criminal lawyer.Defenses to Sexting
Luckily, the legislature was wise enough to include some defenses built into the sexting statute. Still, the defenses created by our lawmakers impose a hefty responsibility. A minor for example, cannot be convicted of sexting if they received harmful materials that they themselves did not solicit. The minor must also prove that they took reasonable steps to report the material to a parent or law enforcement. Finally the minor must also show that he or she did not transmit the material to anyone else. Even consenting minors who send sexual messages or photographs to one another are at risk of being charged and convicted under this statute. Because of the overbearing nature of the criminal justice system, parents need to be vigilant and discuss with their children what is and is not acceptable and legal to transmit via the internet.Speak to our Lawyers Today
The internet is certainly a tool for good and has facilitated the spread of information and other growth around the world. Unfortunately the freedom afforded by internet communications has attracted the ire of the criminal justice system. Having a competent attorney to fight against that system can make all the difference in your child’s case. Call us today for a consultation at 941.462.1789.