In our modern era, much of our communication is done over devices like computers, tablets, and cell phones rather than face to face. While this provides much in terms of convenience and helps us connect with people who are not physically close by, it has also created many potential pitfalls that nobody had to worry about even a single generation ago. One activity that might seem relatively harmless, but can end up getting you into serious trouble with the law, is texting (“sexting”), emailing, or otherwise using electronic communications to send lewd pictures of yourself to another person.
Depending on multiple factors, including your age, who you send the message to, and your intent, you could end up charged with a crime and face penalties including jail time and being forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life. Below, our skilled Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych explain when adults and juveniles can get into legal trouble for sending lewd pictures and how we can help you if you are facing such charges.
When Can Adults Go to Jail for Sending Lewd Pictures in New Jersey?
While most times sending naked or lewd pictures to another consenting adult is legal, there are certain situations where criminal charges can follow this behavior. The following are some of the other charges than adults can face for sexting behavior. Any time you are charged with one of these offenses, you should reach out to a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych as soon as possible so that we can get to work right away on mitigating the damage so that you do not face the most serious penalties like jail time.
Sexting with Minors
Adults are never permitted to send lewd pictures to or receive lewd pictures from a minor. Such behavior could lead to providing obscene material to a minor or possession of child pornography charges, both of which can result in serious jail time and potential lifelong registration on the sex offender list.
lIf you send a naked picture to a partner who asked for one, this is majorly different than sending a naked picture to a random person who has no idea what is coming when they open their text or e-mail. Under New Jersey law, there is a charge called lewdness which is defined as occurring when a person “does any flagrantly lewd and offensive act which he knows or reasonably expects is likely to be observed by other nonconsenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed.” Sexting a lewd picture, whether of yourself or someone else, to someone completely unprompted can qualify as this charge in some instances. Lewdness is typically charged as a disorderly persons offense, the penalties for which include up to 6 months in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Harassment charges in New Jersey are defined, in part, as “repeated communications that cause annoyance or alarm.” As such, sending lewd pictures to someone repeatedly, especially if you have been asked to stop, can sometimes qualify as the crime of harassment. Typically, because the sexting will occur over an electronic device, the charge will actually be “cyber-harassment,” which comes with even harsher potential penalties than regular harassment, including up to 18 months in jail. This charge can also apply if you post “revenge porn” on online forums or social media sites or spread it around with the intent to emotionally harm the person depicted in the material and without their permission.
When Can Minors Go To Jail For Sending Lewd Pictures in New Jersey?
Minors can be charged with any of the above crimes that apply to adults, such as harassment if they repeatedly send another minor lewd pictures for the purpose of bothering them and after they have been asked to stop. Unlike with adults, however, it is never legal for minors to send or receive naked pictures of other minors, even if the pictures are of themselves and if both of the parties involved are consenting and willing participants in the exchange. The code section that prohibits such activity is called “endangering the welfare of a child.” It can sometimes be charged even when a minor receives a naked picture from another minor that they did not even request.
If you possess a lewd photograph of a minor, you can face penalties including up to 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. If you were the one who distributed the lewd photograph, whether it was of yourself or of another minor, you can face up to 20 years in prison and a $200,000 fine. Note that you can be charged per image or video you sent, meaning you could face multiple counts of this offense, each with their own punishments. New Jersey does, however, have a pre-trial diversion program for minors charged with sexting or receiving lewd pictures. This program will include counseling and other educational activities for the minors involved, and, if complete successfully, the minor will not be adjudicated guilty of a crime or have a criminal record. A skilled criminal defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can work to convince the prosecutor and judge to allow you into this program and save you from having the matter become a serious criminal case that could lead to jail time or time in a juvenile detention facility, depending on the minor’s age at conviction.
If You Have Been Charged with Sending Lewd Pictures, Call Our Skilled NJ Criminal Defense Attorneys Today
Jail time is a real possibility if you are convicted of a crime involving sending lewd pictures to others. Whether these pictures were unwanted, meant to harass, or sent to someone underage, you could face serious consequences for your actions. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our skilled criminal defense attorneys have years of experience working with clients charged with these types of crimes to fight for their rights and work to get the charges against them downgraded or dismissed so that they can stay out of jail and move on with their lives. Call us today at (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.