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Teen Sexting Laws in California

Posted in California Law,Sex Crimes on June 9, 2022

The act of sending sexually suggestive or nude images via an electronic device is known as sexting, and it can be illegal if teens are involved. Sexting usually occurs via text messages or social media platforms but can also be carried out via email or other electronic means. Teenagers, most of which are minors, commonly practice sexting, sometimes using it to harass or even bully other people with their sexting activities. 

In California, the laws on sexting and teens are clear. If you or your teen have been accused of a crime related to teen sexting, reach out for help from a criminal defense attorney right away, as the charge can have lasting negative implications. 

someone texting with the overlay "when is sexting illegal?"

When Is Sexting Illegal for Teens? 

It is important to note that in most cases, when two consenting adults are sexting with one another, there is no crime being committed, at least in California. However, if teenagers are involved in sexting, then the activity is illegal under California Penal Code. Because California does not have a specific sexting law for teens, sexting falls under the state’s general laws governing child porn and exploitation. 

Because there are no teen-specific sexting laws on the books, teenagers who are no longer minors (18- and 19-year-olds), put themselves in serious legal jeopardy when sexting with teens age 17 or younger. Although 18- and 19-year-olds are teens, they are also of the age of majority and subject to adult laws. Those teens who have not yet attained the age of majority in California are also subject to sexting charges, but those charges unfold in juvenile court. 

Sexting is a Serious Offense

In the state of California, sexting can be construed as a violation of: 

  • Cal. Penal Code 311.4, child pornography laws. Sending or possessing images of minor children that portray the minor engaged in a sex act or sexual conduct, including exposure of the child’s private areas for the sexual gratification of another person. 
  • Cal. Penal Code 311.11, possession or control of matter depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct. Possessing or controlling images and photos depicting minors engaged or simulating sexual conduct, providing the person knows that the person being depicted is a minor. 
  • Cal. Penal Code 311.2, sending or distributing material depicting sexual conduct by a minor. Distributing, exhibiting, or exchanging material that shows a minor child engaged in or simulating sexual conduct. 
  • Cal. Penal Code 311.3, sexual exploitation of a minor. Developing, duplicating, printing, or exchanging materials depicting sexual conduct by a minor. 
  • Cal. Penal Code 288.2, harmful matter sent with the intent to seduce a minor. Distributing or sending harmful matter electronically in a way to appeal to, gratify, or seduce a minor

In some instances, sexting may also be a federal crime under the PROTECT Act of 2003

Teen Charged with Sexting?

The team at the Law Offices of Graham Donath understands how frustrating and scary it can be if you or your child are accused of a crime. Our Riverside criminal defense attorney provides nonjudgmental legal help with sexting cases. Reach out to us to request a confidential consultation or call us in Riverside at 951-667-5293 or in Orange County at 714-758-5293