Sexting is a dangerous activity, even if fun or flirtatious. Photos, commentary, video, and other electronically distributed sexual material do not necessarily disappear after selecting the delete button.
A digital record remains intact anytime anyone uses the internet or electronic devices to transmit information.
The law often lags behind technology. To date, there are no laws prohibiting sexting in Ohio.
Existing laws could fill the gaps to protect children from viewing, creating, and distributing obscene materials.
You must act swiftly if you or a loved one is under investigation for or charged with a crime involving sexting in Ohio.
Sexting Between Consenting Adults
Sexting laws for adults in Ohio are virtually non-existent, except for one statute.
The Ohio legislature passed the law to protect people from becoming victims of revenge porn. The Ohio law criminalizes distributing images of other people by electronic means without that person’s consent.
The law applies to images of anyone aged 18 or older shown nude or in a sexual act. The crime is complete if the subject can be identified.
Sexting That Involves Minors
Unlike sexting between adults, sexting that involves a minor can have serious consequences. A number of crimes relating to sexting can be committed by both adults and teenagers.
Juveniles seldom realize you can get in trouble for sexting. Teenagers notoriously yield to impulses without thinking about the consequences.
When in the moment, they would hardly believe that it is illegal to send nudes to each other even if shared by significant others.
A teen might also find it hard to believe that receiving a nude photo of another is a crime when they received it by accident.
Unfortunately, many teenagers are now realizing distributing private or even unsolicited sext messages could be criminal.
As a society, we are just beginning to appreciate the possible harm that sending nudes might do to the person in the photo. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors at the state and federal levels aggressively pursue purveyors of child pornography.
In Ohio, possession of child pornography is a felony called pandering obscenity. Ohio’s pandering obscenity law prohibits creating, publishing, reproducing, or possessing obscene material depicting people under 18.
Thus, two 17-year-old teens involved in an intimate relationship who sext could be prosecuted for possession of child pornography in Ohio. Moreover, the law would apply to an adult sending or receiving a photo of a person under 18.
Parents and guardians have a duty to protect minor children in their care. Their duty extends to protecting their minor children from appearing in obscene material, including being depicted in nude photographs.
Ohio law punishes parents and guardians who allow minor children in their care to appear in nude or obscene material.
Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles
Ohio law provides that no person shall sell, give, or send obscene or harmful materials to a juvenile. Ohio’s legislature wrote the law broadly to cover a wide range of behavior.
The law applies to teens sending obscene matter to each other, like intimate photos or videos. The law also applies to anyone 18 or older sending nude photos or sexting with a person younger than 18.
Punishments for Sexting in Ohio
Punishments for sexting in Ohio vary depending on the severity of the allegations. Most crimes in Ohio that apply to sexting are felonies. Punishments for felony convictions in Ohio include lengthy prison terms, fines, and probation.
The sentencing judge can impose strict probationary terms to protect victimized children and help reform the offender. Probationary terms might include:
- Forfeiting cell phones or other electronic devices;
- Staying away from and having no contact with the alleged victim in the case, even if that person is a friend or significant other;
- Sex-offender treament or counseling; and
- Other provisions designed to protect children.
The potential sanctions a court could impose are severe. The collateral consequences of sexting are severe as well.
A conviction or delinquency for a sexting crime in Ohio can hinder educational and career advancement and restrict personal freedoms for a felony conviction.
Sex Offender Registration
Ohio law requires people convicted of certain sex crimes to register with the state’s sex offender registry.
An adult convicted or a juvenile adjudicated a delinquent child for a sex crime involving a child must register as a convicted sex offender. A person on the sex offender registry must re-register his or her address every year.
Ohio’s sex offender registry will classify the offender. The public has access to information about a convicted sex offender depending on the person’s classification level.
Possible Defenses for Sexting Charges
Anyone facing charges relating to sexting in Ohio might not see any way out of the situation. However, a dedicated Ohio criminal defense attorney will evaluate your case to determine any defenses that could help you avoid a conviction or minimize the severity of the punishment.
A skilled Ohio criminal defense lawyer with experience defending sexting charges in Ohio could pursue options such as:
- Filing a motion to suppress evidence illegally seized by police, such as cell phone data and downloads;
- Arguing temporary or unintentional possession of obscene material depticing a child, especially if you did not solicit the material;
- Arguing entrapment if you were charged based on a police sting operation; or
- Negotiating a sentence reduction.
The types of defenses argued to depend on the individual circumstances of the case. Defenses such as consent do not apply when sexting with a minor. Your Ohio sexting defense lawyer will explain all your options to guide you toward the decision that is best for you.