“Sexting” refers to the act of sending or receiving sexually explicit messages, images, or videos, typically through electronic devices such as smartphones or computers. It involves sharing explicit content, often of a personal or intimate nature, between individuals, usually in a consensual context.
However, sexting can sometimes lead to legal issues, especially when it involves minors or non-consensual sharing of explicit content. In such cases, defendants may face charges related to child pornography, harassment, or other offenses depending on the circumstances of their specific cases. Fortunately, if you are facing such a charge, then our legal team can help you navigate the judicial process and build your defense.
Seek guidance and support from our experienced criminal defense lawyers by calling the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free case review.
When Does Sending or Receiving Explicit Messages Become Illegal in New Jersey?
There are several potential scenarios where sending or receiving explicit messages can be considered illegal. For instance, you can face criminal penalties if you engage in any of the following activities:
Sharing explicit content without the recipient’s consent, commonly known as “non-consensual sexting,” is a serious offense in New Jersey. If someone disseminates intimate images or videos of another person without their permission, it may result in criminal charges for invasion of privacy or harassment.
Fortunately, if you were accused of non-consensual sexting, then there are multiple defenses that you may utilize. Our criminal defense attorneys can review your case and determine the proper course of action.
Sexting with Adults and Minors
Engaging in sexually explicit conversations or exchanging explicit content with a minor, even if both parties are adults, can lead to charges of endangering the welfare of a child or other related offenses. The law prohibits adults from involving minors in any sexually explicit activities or discussions.
Distribution of Revenge Porn
Distributing explicit images or videos of others, even if the content was initially shared consensually, can still be illegal if the individual distributing the material lacks permission from the sender. In cases where the content was initially shared consensually, the images or videos at issue are often referred to as “revenge porn.”
Initiating or engaging in sexually explicit conversations with a minor online, even without sharing explicit content, can be illegal. This includes attempts to solicit explicit images from minors or arranging to meet them for sexual purposes, leading to charges of online solicitation of a minor.
Example of Penalties that Can Be Imposed in a Sexting Case
When a juvenile girl began receiving offensive messages over the internet from a suspicious adult male, the young victim sought help. The girl’s parents informed police and a detective was assigned to try to find out who the suspect was. The detective, according to reports, was able to track the suspect by continuing contact and posing as the girl online.
The suspect pleaded guilty in an open plea to a sex offense, the attempted endangerment of a child’s welfare through sex texts and a photograph. The accused admitted contacting the girl during the spring of 2009 and sending sexually suggestive and explicit messages and a picture to her or, at least, to the person he believed was her. The case detective, in the girl’s internet disguise, intercepted the clearly sexual material as evidence.
When police raided the suspect’s home, they reportedly found a computer hard drive filled with child pornography in the form of videos and photographs. The man was charged first with possession of those materials as well as endangering the welfare of children.
After the police seizure of physical evidence, the suspect entered a guilty plea for additional charges stemming from the sexting with the 12-year-old who had initially reported him. Although the state prosecutor had plea bargained a 4 year jail term, the man chose to enter a no-contest or open plea and will be sentenced by a superior court judge in June.
The possible sentences the admitted sex offender may receive, in addition to prison, are court-ordered fines, lifetime parole and possibly civil commitment, a mandatory process that would help to decide if the man requires mental health or psychiatric treatment.
Source: PhillyBurbs.com “Man pleads guilty in text sex case” Danielle Camilli, April 26, 2011.
Potential Defenses Used in New Jersey Sexting Cases
Thankfully, there are multiple different defenses that may be employed in illegal sexting cases. After reviewing your case, our legal team can help determine if any of the following defenses may be available to you:
Lack of Intent
One potential defense in illegal sexting cases is to argue that the defendant did not have the intent to engage in unlawful activity. For example, if the defendant was unaware of the age of the other party involved and reasonably believed they were of legal age, it could be argued that there was no intention to commit a crime.
Mistake of Age
Similar to lack of intent, the defense of mistake of age can be employed when the defendant reasonably believed the other party was of legal age. The defendant must demonstrate that they took reasonable steps to ascertain the other person’s age and were genuinely mistaken about it.
In some cases, defendants may argue that they had explicit consent from the other party to engage in sexting. This defense can be complex, particularly when dealing with minors. However, if the defendant can provide evidence of explicit consent from the other party, it may strengthen their case.
Lack of Evidence
Challenging the evidence presented by the prosecution is another strategy. This can involve questioning the authenticity of the alleged explicit content, highlighting inconsistencies, or raising doubts about the chain of custody for the evidence.
If the defendant can prove that they were coerced or induced by law enforcement to engage in illegal sexting, they may raise the defense of entrapment. For instance, this defense may be raised in a case where an officer coerced a defendant to send intimate texts while the officer pretended to be a minor.
Unfortunately, entrapment is only as available as a defense under very rare circumstances.
Defendants can challenge the legality of how evidence was obtained, particularly in cases where sexting was discovered through searches of electronic devices. If the evidence was obtained without a valid warrant or in violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, it may be suppressed.
Lack of Identifiable Offense
Sometimes, the specific laws under which the defendant is charged may not apply appropriately to the facts of the case. In such instances, a defendant may argue that the defendant’s actions do not meet the elements required to prove the offense charged.
Insufficient Evidence of Distribution
In cases involving the distribution of explicit content, defendants may dispute the extent of their involvement in the dissemination of such materials. If the prosecution cannot provide substantial evidence linking the defendant to the distribution, this defense could weaken the case against them.
Call Our Criminal Defense Lawyers Today for Help with Your New Jersey Sexting Case
Get assistance from our experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by dialing (609) 616-4956.