Sexting is the sending of nude or sexually explicit photos by cell phone or other electronic device. While the private and non-commercial sharing of nude images between adults is not necessarily illegal, teenagers in Oregon who share nude or sexual images of children under the age of 18 may be prosecuted under child pornography laws. Many people believe child pornography laws – intended to protect kids from sexual predators – are too harsh to be applied to children who engage in adolescent misbehavior. However, kids in Oregon, as well as in other states, have faced felony charges for sexting. For example, a 16-year-old girl in Oregon was charged with two felonies after she used her cell phone to make a sexually explicit video of a teenage friend who was passed out during a party and then shared the video with others. Although she was later sentenced to only two months in jail, she could have faced more than ten years in prison.
For more information, see Teen Sexting.
Under Oregon’s laws, it is a crime (called encouraging child sexual abuse) to possess any visual image depicting sexually explicit conduct (this includes both sexual activity, masturbation, and any lewd exhibition of the private parts of the body) involving a child under the age of 18. It is also a crime to encourage or compel a child under the age of 18 to engage in any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of recording it (this crime in called using a child in a sexual display); or to duplicate, print, disseminate, or sell child pornography. Possession of child pornography is punished more severely if the defendant intends to use or uses the pornography to encourage a child to engage in sexual activity. For example, under Oregon's laws the following people could face child pornography charges:
(Or. Rev. Stat. § § 163.665, 163.670, 163.684, 163.686, 163.687, 163.688, 163.689.)
For more information on other sex crimes against minors, see Child Enticement Laws in Oregon.
Possession of child pornography is a class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,250) or a class C felony (punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $125,000), depending on whether the defendant is aware of the child’s age. Possession of child pornography is also a Class C felony if the defendant intends to use it to encourage a child to engage in sexual conduct.
Duplicating or disseminating child pornography is a Class B felony, as is possession of child pornography if the defendant actually uses it to encourage the child to engage in sexual activity. Class B felonies are punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Encouraging a child to engage in sexual activity for the purpose of recording it is a Class A felony, punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $375,000. The mandatory minimum sentence for this crime is 70 months in prison.
(Or. Rev. Stat. § § 137.700, 163.670, 163.684, 163.686, 163.687, 163.688, 163.689.)
Most people convicted of child pornography crimes in Oregon are required to register as sex offenders. (Or. Rev. Stat. § § 181.594, 181.595.)
Teen sexting has other consequences, even if no criminal charges are filed. Images can easily be forwarded and shared, and even posted online. This can cause lasting damage to a teen’s reputation. Teens whose private images are shared are often humiliated and bullied. Some may become depressed and hurt themselves. Students who take, possess, or share sexts can also get in trouble at school.
If you or your child is charged with a crime as a result of teen sexting, you should contact an Oregon criminal defense attorney. A conviction for child pornography or a similar crime can have serious consequences. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can provide you with appropriate legal advice and inform you of the potential consequences, including whether juvenile defendants may be required to register as sex offenders, and whether there are alternatives to formal adult court, such as handling the matter in the juvenile court system. An attorney can protect your rights as you navigate the criminal justice system.