Michigan Sexting Laws – Crimes & Penalties
Sexting is becoming a rampant problem in many area high schools. Teens under 18 may think that sharing a nude photo of a fellow class mate is not a big deal , they are wrong. Sexting has serious social, emotional and legal consequences. If sexually explicit comments are made through text, this is not unlawful. A photograph showing nudity of a person under the age 18 is a criminal act, and a felony in Michigan. Learn more about Michigan sexting laws below.
Three Criminal Acts Under Michigan Sexting Laws
- Taking photographs of genitals, pubic area, buttocks or female breast that are of a person under the age of 18 is illegal, this includes taking photos of your own body. This is a 20 year felony.
- Sending, reproducing or distributing these photos is a 7 year felony.
- Possession of sexually abusive material related to a minor is a 4 year felony.
Take this scenario happening at the local high school.
#1 If a 16 year old Deanna sends her boyfriend Jason a picture she took of herself topless she could possibly be facing 3 felony charges for making, distributing and possessing illegal pornography. If the boyfriend requested that she send it he could have an added solicitation charge added. If Jason sends the photo to Stevie, then there is another count for distribution.
#2 If Stevie is shocked at the photo , but keeps it on his phone for a couple of months he is more likely to be charged with Possession of sexually explicit material a 4 year felony.
If Stevie is shocked and embarrassed , sends Jason a message back that says “don’t ever send me that again” and erases it , Stevie is less likely to face criminal charges.
The law treats the purported victim Deanna as harshly as Jason who disseminated the photo, likely without his now former girlfriend’s permission. What was believed to be a harmless prank is really a situation where all the teens involved could be facing serious felony charges.
The pornography laws did not anticipate a future issue in which electronic dissemination of inappropriate photographs between teens would be treated as serious criminal penalties. A 40 year old collecting pictures of underage children and a teenage kid making a dumb decision to forward a picture of his bare bottom can both be prosecuted for child pornography.
In fact, there was an article published by MLive on minors and sexting. This article discusses a study that was conducted by Drexel University. In this study, more than half of surveyed college students admitted to sexting as minors.
A person convicted of this crime must register and report as a sex offender. In the future the convicted felon can never be present on school grounds, play grounds or day care centers.
The best advice is for parents and schools to discuss these serious consequences with students to avoid not only criminal involvement but also the emotional damage and collateral consequences. Sexting is a way to harass and bully another teen which has led to not only an embarrassing situation but at least one young woman took her own life rather than deal with the shame.
If a teen is under investigation for a possible Sexting incident it is imperative that the teen and parents discuss the matter with a criminal attorney and exercise their right to remain silent.
– Never share or forward a sexually explicit photograph of another under the age of 18.
– If you receive a photo, immediately delete and advise the sender to stop sending you pornography.
– Contact a criminal defense attorney immediately before speaking to the police or school authorities if you are being implicated in a Sexting investigation.
You have a constitutionally protected right to remain silent, use it.
Michigan Sexting Laws – Frequently Asked Questions
With the recent scandals involving high schools in Rochester and Romeo Michigan hitting the news, I think we are seeing the tip, of the iceberg of Sexting investigations.
Parents need to speak with their teens and become aware of their legal rights and Michigan sexting laws before speaking to any authority, such as school officials or the police.
Where We Serve Clients
The offices of Kelly & Kelly, P.C. is located in Northville, Michigan. Although this is our physical location, we represent clients all throughout Ann Arbor, Novi, Livonia, Wayne County, Oakland County, Macomb County, and many other locations throughout the State of Michigan. Our law firm is very familiar with the various court systems across the State.