Friday, March 20, 2009

BUT I JUST TEXTED: HOW SEXTING CAN GET YOU IN TROUBLE.

You just broke up with your girlfriend from school, and you’re upset. You don’t think she treated you right, so to get even with her, you’ve texted those nude photos you took on your cell phone in better days to ten of your friends.

Or maybe, you think your steady looks fantastic, and you just were showing off. Or you thought if that special someone saw what they were missing, you might get that first date.

If you sent nude pictures via texting, there’s a new name for what you did: Sexting. Maybe sexting made you feel better about that girlfriend or proud of your steady for the moment. But the consequences of sexting, such as a conviction for child pornography, can follow you around for the rest of your life.

Concerned with the rising tide of sexting, prosecutors and school officials are looking to set examples, not without some reason. Some offenders have used sexting to solicit nude photos of young people. In one Ohio case, the sexting victim was harassed and committed suicide. Because of cases like these, the Illinois Attorney General has asked victims of sexting to call its Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

But in the absence of laws tailored to this new technology, prosecutors are relying on the more severe child pornography laws even against defendants, who are themselves high school students. In Illinois, you may have committed a Class 1 felony if you 1) filmed, videotaped or photographed any one that you should have known was under the age of 18 in lewd exhibitions of nudity or 2) knowing the contents of those pictures, you distributed them, i.e. via texting.

If found guilty, you may face a prison term ranging from 15 to 30 years along with fines between $1,000 and $100,000 dollars for each offense. You may also land on the sex offender registry. As a student, you may be expelled. Today, more schools are disciplining students for offenses, even if the activity took place off school grounds. In this case, sexting technology can cause something that took place outside the school to enter the school’s domain.

Even if the victim is over the age of 18, you could still be charged for harassment or for an obscenity offense.

If you think you might be charged because of sexting, contact an attorney immediately. Don’t speak to anyone about your case because those statements could be used against you. Sometimes an attorney can even help prevent charges from being brought. Even if you are charged, your case may not be hopeless. You might reasonably have believed the victim was over the age of 18. You may not have been the one who sent the text. Maybe you forwarded something without knowing the contents. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact me at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

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