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Sexting Your Way Into a Felony

Have you had “that talk” with your teen recently? No, not the one about “the birds and the bees” – the one about the dangers of keeping nude or sexually explicit pictures on a cellphone. Earlier this year, up to eight cell phones belonging to high school students were confiscated and found to have videos on them made by a male student who filmed himself masturbating. He was charged with felony pandering. In another case this year, police confiscated student cell phones containing nude photos of female high school students. Police estimated that hundreds of the students had received or circulated pictures of naked female students who willingly posted their nude shots. None of the parents of any of the involved students − the girls who posed or the boys who shared the photos − wanted to press charges, and the students themselves were shocked that this could be prosecuted as a felony. The police talked to students who had no idea that this behavior was considered criminal.

What is “sexting”?

“Sexting” (a hybrid of the words “sex” and “texting”) usually connotes sending, receiving, taking, or displaying sexually explicit or nude pictures by electronic communication devices such as cellphones, emails, and other online methods.

Although the Ohio legislature has several bills under consideration which would define sexting offenses by minors as misdemeanors rather than felonies, no new laws are yet on the books. That means your high school student who admires his buddy’s girlfriend’s Playboy pose could be charged with a serious felony under current statutes.

Police and prosecutors, having no misdemeanor alternatives at the moment, can charge sexting only as a felony. The felony options in Ohio for this kind of activity fall under either of two statutes. The first is a fourth degree felony, “Pandering Sexually Oriented Matter Involving a Minor” and the second is felony “Illegal Use of a Minor in Nudity Oriented Material”. Both of these allegations are serious felonies that could, depending on the degree of the felony charge, put an adult in prison. Federal law requires a 15-to-25 year registration with a sex-offender registry.

If you haven’t had “that talk” with your teen yet, then it’s time to warn him or her about the potentially very severe consequences of “sexting.” If the deed is done and your teen is already facing criminal charges for this kind of activity, then contact Ohio’s dedicated criminal defense professionals, Yavitch & Palmer Co., LPA who can help you defend your child against felony charges.

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