Teen Sexting in Georgia
People have probably been sharing nude or sexually explicit images with one another since such images first became portable. With the advent of cell phones, laptop computers, and the ability to almost instantaneously share images with anyone around the world, sexting has become a common activity. Adults who share explicit images of other adults or themselves with don’t normally commit crimes, but the same cannot be said for teenagers. Because many teenagers are legally children, sharing explicit images, either of themselves or of other teens, can result in serious child pornography charges.
In many states, legislatures have determined that teens who share explicit images of themselves and of other teens do not commit the same acts that child pornography laws are intended to punish. In these states, lawmakers have adopted specific teen sexting laws that provide for less serious penalties then the laws that punish child pornography. However, not all states have adopted these laws, and in many states, teens who sext can still be charged with very serious child pornography crimes.
Georgia adopted legislation in 2013 that specifically addresses teens who engage in sexting activity.
If you’d like to know more about teen sexting laws, read Teen Sexting.
Sexual Exploitation of Children
Any teenager in Georgia who creates or possesses a nude or sexually explicit image of himself or herself is guilty of a misdemeanor if:
- the teen is at least 14
- the person in possession of the image is not older than 17, and
- the person depicted in the image consented to both its creation and distribution.
Otherwise, possessing or creating a sexually explicit image of a minor is a felony offense.
(Georgia Annotated Code section16-12-100)
Electronically Furnishing Obscene Material to Minors
Teens who furnish or provide another minor with an obscene image commit a misdemeanor offense in Georgia if:
- the recipient is 14 or older
- the recipient consents to receiving the image, and
- the sender is under the age of 18.
Otherwise, furnishing obscene materials to minors is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.
(Georgia Annotated Code section 16-12-100.1)
Computer or Electronic Pornography
Teens in Georgia who possess, transmit, or receive obscene images of other teens commit a misdemeanor offense when:
- the accused is no older than 18
- the depicted teen is 14 or older at the time the image was created, and
- the accused had the depicted teen’s permission.
Otherwise, committing the crime of computer or electronic pornography is a felony offense.
Also, the accused teen must not have distributed the image to others, or the crime is a felony offense. However, if the court determines, with the agreement of the prosecution and defense counsel, that the distribution was not done to intimidate, harass, embarrass, or for commercial purposes, the crime is not a felony.
(Georgia Annotated Code section 16-12-100.2)
SEXTING AND FEDERAL LAW
Depending on the circumstances, sexting may also be a crime under federal law.
The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of 2003 makes it illegal to produce, distribute, receive, or possess with intent to distribute any obscene visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Knowing possession of such material—without intent to distribute—is also a crime under the PROTECT Act. (18 U.S.C. § 1466A(a)(1).)
Federal law also criminalizes causing a minor to take part in sexually explicit conduct in order to visually depict that conduct. Parents who allow this behavior can also be prosecuted. (18 U.S.C. § 2251.)
It’s also a federal crime to use a computer to ship, transport, receive, distribute, or reproduce for distribution a depiction of a minor actually engaging in sexually explicit conduct, or any material that otherwise constitutes child pornography. It’s another federal crime to promote or solicit sexually explicit material involving a minor. (18 U.S.C. §§ 2252, 2252A.)
But federal prosecution of juveniles for sexting may be unlikely. The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA) generally provides that, where possible, juveniles should be prosecuted in state—not federal—courts. (18 U.S.C. § 5032.)
The penalty someone receives for being convicted of a sexting-related crime in Georgia will differ depending on several factors. The specific crimes involved, the defendant’s criminal history, and whether the defendant is a juvenile or an adult will all play a role.
- Juvenile penalties. With the adoption of the new sexting legislation in 2013, teens convicted of a sexting offense face much less serious penalties. Juvenile courts have the discretion to impose penalties that include probation, fines, community service, placement with a juvenile detention facility, or other punishments as the court deems appropriate. (For more on juvenile courts, see Juvenile Court: An Overview.)
- Adult penalties. When an adult teen is convicted of a sexting crime in Georgia, the penalties are much more severe. Depending on the crime involved, an adult teen faces anywhere from up to a year in jail, to no less than 5 and no more than 20 years in prison. Fines for sexting crimes can also differ significantly, ranging from fines of up to $5,000, to fines of not more than $100,000.
You Need to Talk to a Georgia Lawyer
An experienced attorney who has represented clients in area courtrooms is the only person you should talk to if you need legal advice about a teen sexting charge in Georgia. A lawyer who has experience with local courts, prosecutors, and judges will be able to give you personalized advice and guide you through the criminal justice process. Even if you don’t believe you’ve done anything wrong, you need to speak to an attorney as soon as you are approached by investigators.