Sexting, in some cases, is against federal law. Depending on the circumstances involved, it is a federal crime to use a computer to distribute or receive images of child pornography. In this case, child porn can be defined as any document that explicitly shows a minor engaging in a sexual act. Further, promoting or soliciting this type of material is also illegal in the US.
That being said, when juveniles are involved, the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA) suggests that issues of child pornography between minors should be handled by state courts and not at the federal level.
New Jersey law does take the definition of “sexting” a step further by dictating that selling, distributing, renting or exhibiting obscene materials to a child (showing, emailing or texting them) would be illegal. Who decides what’s obscene? In New Jersey, the definition is broad. If there is an image – still or video – that is sexual in nature, a case can be made that it should be considered obscene.
That being said, can someone who sent a photo to a minor be held liable if they truly didn’t know the person was underage? According to N.J. Statute Ann. § 2C:34-3, a skilled criminal defense lawyer could bring a viable defense saying that the defendant didn’t know that the recipient of the material was underage. This is true especially if there is proof that the “child” said he or she was over age 18 and looks to be of age.
There are other defenses as well, but it’s critical to speak with a knowledgeable lawyer who will protect your rights – and your reputation – from the start. The penalties associated with child pornography are extreme severe. Possession of child porn is a third degree crime. If convicted, a person could be sent to prison for up to five years and forced to pay up to $15,000. If you are convicted of making or distributing the obscene material, the penalties are even more severe.
Further, anyone convicted of a sexual offense in New Jersey will be forced to be listed on a sex offender registry, in accordance with Megan’s Law.
Don’t allow a false accusation to affect the rest of your life, making it difficult to get a job or a loan in the future. Contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer today.
John W. Tumelty has been defending clients accused of sex crimes in Atlantic City and throughout South Jersey for over 30 years. Contact him today for a free consultation about your charges.