An Overview of Child Pornography Laws and Sexting in Florida
An increasing number of teenagers are using smartphones, which, of course, have the ability to send and receive photos and videos. Unfortunately, the number of reports of “sexting,” or sending sexual content through text messaging and other apps, has also increased.
Although sending such photos may seem relatively harmless, these teens may find themselves in trouble for breaking the law in Florida. Depending on the nature of the photograph or video and the ages of those sending and receiving the messages, teenagers may find themselves being cited for breaking child pornography laws.
When the statutes criminalizing child pornography were drafted, smartphones were not as popular as they are today. Florida legislators, at the time, did not anticipate that child pornography laws could be implicated if two teenagers sent sexually-themed photos or videos to one another.
Two consenting adults may sext all day long and never break a law. Why should two teenagers be charged with a crime for the same activity?
The problem involves the age of consent. Sexting could be labeled as “child pornography” because the law does not allow children to “consent” to this behavior in Florida.
Florida has updated its laws to denote the disparity between adults who commit child pornography crimes and teenagers who send sexual content to each other. In doing so, teenagers who send sexts may be able to avoid being forced to register as a sex offender.
Florida Statute Section 847.0141
Florida Statute Section 847.0141 states that the crime of sexting is committed if a minor knowingly uses a computer or other electronic communication device to share videos or images that show sexual conduct or nudity to another minor.
This law may also be violated if a minor receives and keeps explicit content that was sent by another minor.
The statute clarifies that minors who did not solicit the content, did not send it to third parties, or who properly reported receiving the content did not commit the crime of sexting.
If the court finds the minor in “contempt” of the law, serious consequences may occur. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles may issue a notation on the child’s driving record. It may also delay the issuance or suspend the driver’s license of the minor for 30 consecutive days.
Teenagers may also face felony child pornography charges if the photograph or video content shows sexual conduct or sexual excitement. Additionally, the crime can also be classified as stalking under Section 784.048 or as cyber harassment, which is also popularly known as revenge porn.
Elements of Transmission of Child Pornography by a Minor under Section 847.0137
Crimes for the transmission or possession of pornography are processed in juvenile court under Florida Statute 847.0137. If the offense is committed by someone over 18 years of age, it is a third-degree felony.
For cases involving a minor defendant, the prosecution must show:
Under this law, the term “child pornography” is defined as an image depicting a minor child participating in sexual conduct.
Knowing or reasonably knowing that “child pornography” was being transmitted to another person is a third-degree felony. These crimes may carry a sentence of up to five years in a Florida State Prison.
The penalties for minors charged with sexting under Florida Statute 847.0141 depend on the number of prior offenses the minor may have on his or her record.
The first offense is considered to be a noncriminal violation.
The second offense is a first-degree misdemeanor if the minor previously committed a noncriminal violation for sexting or has completed the penalty imposed as a substitution for a court appearance.
The third offense is a third-degree felony if the minor previously committed a first-degree misdemeanor sexting crime.
Defenses to Sexting Crimes in Florida
Defenses to sexting crimes exist if the minor did not seek the image or video and if the minor reported the image to a legal guardian, parent, school employee, or law enforcement officer.
This defense may not be raised if the minor child sends to or shares the photograph or video with a third party other than a legal guardian, parent, school employee, or law enforcement officer.
The statute also restricts the number of charges that may be filed for a single incident. Under Florida Statute 847.0141(2)(a), the distribution or transmission of multiple photographs or videos are to be prosecuted as a single charge if the photographs or videos were sent or distributed within a single 24-hour time frame.
Learn About Your Legal Options Today
The attorneys at Musca Law have more than 150 years of combined experience in the courtroom and have helped countless individuals fight serious accusations. Our attorneys carefully study each case and build strong defenses to help our clients obtain the best results possible under Florida law.
If you would like to learn about your legal options and the services our firm offers, contact our office as soon as possible at (888) 484-5057 to schedule a free case evaluation to see how we can assist you. No obligation is required. No matter what type of criminal charges you are facing in Florida, we can help.
- The defendant is under 18 years old;
- The defendant transmits by sending or causes to be delivered;
- Any information, image or data containing child pornography;
- From one or more persons or places;
- To one or more person or places;
- Over or through any medium, such as the Internet;
- By use of any electronic device or equipment including a cell phone, tablet or computer.