Sending images of a sexually explicit nature is relatively common among teenagers today. Sexting or sending nudes occur often in teenage relationships and hookups. What most teens and parents fail to realize, however, is that teen sexting is against the law in Arizona. It is referred to as the unlawful use of a cell phone by a minor, and can result in criminal charges and serious related penalties. Teen sexting may be a petty offense or class 2 or class 3 misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances.
What Is Teen Sexting?
Sexting means to send sexually explicit images to another person via text message or other electronic communications, such as email or direct messaging. Teen sexting in Arizona specifically refers to a minor under the age of 18 transmitting any visual depiction of nudity, sexual conduct or activity, sexual excitement, human genitalia, or sadomasochistic abuse through an electronic communication device. This includes a cell phone, tablet, computer, computer system or network.
Can a Teen Get in Trouble for Sexting?
Yes. Arizona is one of a few states with specific legislation that makes teen sexting illegal. Arizona Revised Statute Section 8-309 states that it is against the law for a juvenile – someone under the age of 18 – to knowingly or intentionally transmit or display explicit sexual material depicting a minor (including of the juvenile) using an electronic communication device.
State laws also make it illegal for a juvenile to knowingly and intentionally possess this type of material transmitted to the juvenile through an electronic communication device. Exceptions to Arizona’s teen sexting law include if the juvenile did not solicit the images; if the juvenile took reasonable steps to delete or eliminate the material; or if the juvenile reported it to the other party’s parent, guardian or law enforcement official.
In addition to a teen sexting charge, a juvenile who is involved in the recording, possession or distribution of sexually explicit content of a minor could also face charges for crimes such as child pornography or the sexual exploitation of a minor, dangerous crimes against a child, or revenge porn. Finally, a juvenile could get in trouble for sending sexually explicit selfies under Arizona’s child pornography laws and internet sex crime laws.
What Are the Penalties for Teen Sexting in Arizona?
In Arizona, the crime of teen sexting is a petty offense if the material was only transmitted or displayed to one other person. The criminal charge increases to a class 3 misdemeanor, however, if a visual depiction is transmitted to more than one person, and a class 2 misdemeanor if the juvenile has a prior criminal record.
The penalties increase if the juvenile is charged with other crimes, such as child pornography. If the courts decide to try the juvenile as an adult, the penalties can be even more severe. Depending on the facts of the case and whether the juvenile has a previous criminal history, the juvenile could face jail or prison time, fines, and registration for life on the Arizona Sex Offender Registry.
Defenses to Teen Sexting
If you or your child has been accused of a teen sexting crime in Arizona, contact a Phoenix sex crimes attorney right away. A lawyer can provide legal advice that is tailored to your unique situation with the goal of minimizing the charges and penalties against you. For example, the courts in Arizona often permit the reduction of a misdemeanor child pornography charge to a petty offense.
Your attorney may be able to use a proven defense strategy in your representation, such as:
- No intent to commit a crime
- Unsolicited explicit images
- You attempted to eliminate or destroy the images
- You reported the incident
- Illegal search and seizure
The best defense for you and your situation will depend on the circumstances. To request a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Phoenix, contact the teen sexting lawyers at AZ Defenders. We can help you and your family fight back against any type of juvenile sex crime allegation in Arizona.