A lot of people, both young and old, have done it. Sexting: Sending a picture, via text message or other media, of themselves or of a body part unclothed or in a sex act. It’s often all good until the relationship spoils or it’s shared with unintended people. Most people don’t make out like Kim Kardashian West and become a millionaire from a leaked sex tape. It often ends up with embarrassment, humiliation, or revenge and control. And if it involves an individual under the age of consent or a recording or picture of a person’s intimate body parts or in a sex act without the person’s consent it may be a crime.
Unlawful posting of a message, and variations of possession of child sexually abusive material are felonies. Unlawful posting of a message, MCL 750.411S2 (and unlawful posting of a message with aggravating circumstance, MCL 750.411S2B) involves posting a post or message via the internet or a computer (which includes cellphones) without a person’s consent, and the person posting the message knew the post could cause there to be 2 or more unconsented contact with the person in the picture or video; and the post or message was intended to cause contact that would make the person in the video or picture feel terrorized, molested, harassed, threatened, intimidate, frightened or terrorized; and the conduct from the posting would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress and to feel terrorized, molested, harassed, threatened, intimidate, frightened or terrorized. What does all that mean? If one posts something online, which includes social media, that is done without the person in the picture or video’s consent and that causes 2 or more unwanted contacts by others to the person in the picture, and the person suffers distress from that posting that is a felony. People often engage in this type of activity to brag about sexual exploits, to show off something to the friends they’ve been sent or to embarrass a former boyfriend or girlfriend, often referred to as revenge porn, or for many other reasons. Making such a post can cause people, known and unknown, to contact a person in a picture or video to make fun of them, to try to date them or to humiliate and shame them.
Similar activities involving minors are prohibited by the Federal government. 18 U.S.C. 2252 and 2252a prohibit anyone from knowingly receiving or distributing any visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct that has been mailed or transported in the interstate or foreign commerce or from knowingly reproducing any such visual depiction for distribution in interstate or foreign commerce or through the mails. The federal statutes also prohibits anyone in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or on any government land, or in any government facility from selling or possessing with intent to sell any visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct that is shipped in interstate or foreign commerce and also prohibits the possession of books, magazines, or other matters containing the material. It is an affirmative defense that if the person possessed less than three matters containing the proscribed depictions, such person promptly report to law enforcement or took steps to destroy without sending it to anyone else other than law enforcement.
Once pictures or videos are online it’s impossible to remove, delete or ensure that no one has the image(s). Such a posting can interfere with a person’s career, family, education, and numerous other facets of life. If the picture or video includes a person who is a “child,” a person under the age of 18, one could be charged with various crimes related to child sexually abusive material (often referred to as child pornography). Even if one receives, from someone else, and then sends a picture or video of a nude “child” to friends or post online/social media, such a situation could involve possession or distribution of child sexually abusive material.
Beware before sending any nude or partially nude or sexually explicit videos to anyone! Be aware that your picture or video could end up anywhere with anyone and that once it’s online it is on the world wide web for any and everyone to see. Do not photograph or record a person who is nude or partially nude or engaged in sexually explicit activity without their consent! This also applies to young people! Young or old, such activity could be criminal and could not only get you into trouble but could also require you to register as a sex offender.
Below are links to 2 articles about teens and sexting and 1 article on sexting trends in America.
Almost everyone has a phone and they are a wonderful device. And just like anything else what you do with it is important and could be life changing.
*Disclaimer & legal information: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency, organization, employer, this website or anyone else. This article is for informational purposes only not for the purpose of providing medical or legal advice.
Ayanna D. Neal joined Grewal Law PLLC as an attorney after dedicating fifteen years to representing the people of the state of Michigan in prosecution for Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office. Ayanna began practicing law two years prior to working as a prosecutor and handled child custody, contracts, and estate planning cases. Born and raised in Lansing, Michigan, Ayanna holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan and Juris Doctor with a concentration in Business Transactions from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.