By Rebecca Wade

In this digital day and age, almost every teenager has a smartphone — and whether they’re texting, tweeting, or snapchatting there’s a permanent record of all their digital communications. Criminal defense attorney Rebecca Wade discusses the potential legal consequences of sexting in this week’s FAQ Friday.

Why is sexting problematic for minors?

Often when teens text, the conversations become flirtatious, romantic or even sexual. “Kids are doing a lot of sexting,” says Wade, “sending nude or partially nude images of themselves to one another.” This practice is problematic for several reasons. Once a photo is shared through a messaging app or social media, there’s no going back. That photo can’t be unsent. As soon as someone receives a nude photo, there’s nothing to stop them from sharing it with all their friends or posting it online.

What are the legal consequences of sexting?

Depending on the age of the person in the image, sexting could lead to serious legal charges. “If you receive nude photos of someone under 18, you could be charged with possession of child pornography,” explains Wade. “Or, if you share them with your friend, forward them to someone else, or post them on some other site you could be charged with distributing child pornography.”

“Often, charges are brought because a parent is very insistent that their child is being victimized by the photos,” says Wade. It won’t matter if you are an 18-year-old senior dating a 17-year-old senior. In the eyes of the law, you are an adult and could be charged with possession or distribution of child pornography.

When to contact an attorney

If you are charged with possession or distribution of child pornography you should immediately contact an attorney. In Virginia, there is no expungement for convictions, therefore, if you’re found guilty, the conviction will remain on your record forever. In addition, a conviction of possessing or distributing child pornography could force you to register as a sex offender.

About the Author

This is a photo of Rebecca Wade. She is a family law and criminal defense attorney at Old Town Lawyers.

Rebecca Janet Wade

Rebecca Wade is a partner at Wade Grimes Friedman Meinken & Leischner PLLC, practicing in all areas of family law and criminal law having experience with protective orders, divorce, child custody and visitation, child protective services investigations, juvenile delinquency, and criminal charges.

Wade has been named a 2023 Best Lawyer in America by U.S. News & World Report, a 2023 Super Lawyer in Northern Virginia and Washington D.C., and a 2020-2021 Top Lawyer by Northern Virginia Magazine.

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