In the experience of our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers, many parents are in the dark when it comes to Florida’s sexting laws. In fact, a fair number aren’t even aware of the definition, let alone that their teens may be engaging in it.
Sexting in general refers to the exchange of sexual content material via technological devices. It’s a term deriving from the words “sex” and text.” By some measures, approximately 1 in 5 teens have engaged in sexting. While males are more likely than females to engage in sexting, females are more likely to send nude photos of themselves. Most of these are to a boyfriend or girlfriend. But even minors could find themselves facing serious criminal charges in Florida for sexting. In some respects, it is treated as akin to child porn. Consequences can include prison time and requirements to register as a sex offender.
If you’re a parent of a teen, it’s imperative that you educate yourself on what sexting is, what the law says, and how your child can protect themselves from legal trouble.
Florida Sexting Law
Where two consenting adults are involved in sexting, there is no crime. (Consent, however, should be explicit from both sides. Additionally, be certain you know your partner’s true age, as you can be held responsible even if your partner lied about their age. Further, even if sending/receipt of such material between adults is consensual, it can cross the line into revenge porn – also known as sexual cyberharassment, per F.S. 784.049(3) – if the receiving party willfully and maliciously forwards material to third parties without the consent of the initial sender.)
Sexting is considered a serious crime when it involves:
- Lack of one party’s consent.
- A minor (under 18).
Specifically, F.S. 847.0141 prohibits explicit exchanges of photos, videos, voice notes, and sexual texts between two minors AND between an adult and a minor.
Minors can be charged with sexting if they use a cell phone, tablet, computer, or other electronic device to send nude videos or photos to another minor. The other minor possession of those images could be charged with sexting, but may defend against the charges if they:
- Did not solicit/ask for the photo.
- Did not forward to a third-party.
- Took steps to report it (to a parent, school, or law enforcement authority).
As our Broward criminal defense lawyers can explain, conviction for a first-time offense involving two minors carries a penalty of eight hours of community service, a $60 fine, and/or a class that educates on the dangers of sexting. If they fail to comply with all the provisions, they may face driver’s license restrictions. A second offense is punishable with a first-degree misdemeanor charge, which carries up to one year of jail time and a $1,000 fine. A third or subsequent offense is serious – a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation, a $5,000 fine, and a possible requirement to register as a sex offender.
Possession of multiple photos or videos distributed by the same minor is considered a single offense if it was all done within a 24-hour period. Otherwise, there can be multiple counts for multiple images/videos.
Minors typically will go through the juvenile justice system to resolve such charges, but that doesn’t mean they won’t face consequences that can follow them long-term. Parents can ensure their kids’ rights are protected by hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent them in the proceedings.
Sexting between minors and adults is far more serious, and may result in the adult being charged with serious felonies. F.S. 627.071 makes it a fifth-degree felony for an adult possess child pornography – for which a single count could carry up to five years in prison. A person can be charged with multiple counts for multiple images. Possession of four or more such images carries a minimum mandatory sentence of one year in prison. Knowingly sharing such an image is also a third-degree felony. If you possess such images with intent to promote OR you use a minor in sexual performance/to promote a child’s sexual performance, it’s a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
If you or your teen is accused of sexting in Florida, our dedicated Broward criminal defense lawyers can review the facts of your case, advise you of your legal options, and protect your rights as the case moves through the courts.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Sexting Felonies: A Major Problem for Minors, 2019, By Elizabeth Kinsley Hawley, Communicating Psychological Science
More Blog Entries:
Understanding Florida Criminal Sentence Enhancements for Prior Felony Offenders, May 1, 2022, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog