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Juvenile Sex Crimes Attorneys in Texas

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We know that an adult possessing or transmitting child pornography is a serious criminal offense, but children who transmit a picture of themselves or another minor child engaged in sexual conduct can also be prosecuted. Most of these incidents involve so-called “sexting,” or sending sexual pictures via text messages on a cell phone. Sexting by young people has increased dramatically as more and more young adults use cell phones. However, sexting can lead to a criminal charge. If you or your minor child was accused of sexting, it is imperative to speak with an experienced team of sex crimes attorneys right away.

If you or your minor child are charged with a sexting offense, it is crucial to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Stuckle & Associates PLLC, we represent clients charged with a wide variety of criminal offenses, including those allegedly committed against children. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and learn more about the potential penalties that might apply to your sexting case.

Texas Sexting Laws

Young people don’t always understand the consequences of sending suggestive pictures of themselves or their peers through a text message, but the consequences have always been serious. Prior to recent changes in Texas law, teens accused of sexting faced felony penalties since the crime was considered to be the promoting of child pornography. Parents and educators thought these laws were too harsh for juveniles who do not fully comprehend the severity of their actions.

In 2011, Texas Senate Bill 407 was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry. Under this new law, a minor who knowingly possesses, promotes, or sends sexually explicit text messages containing images of a minor is charged with a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Also, minors found guilty of sexting no longer have to register as sex offenders for this offense. Despite this change in the law, adults with sexually explicit images of juveniles can still be charged with a felony for possession of or promoting child pornography, distributing sexual images to a minor, or promoting the sexual performance of a minor.

How Are Juvenile Sexting Charges Imposed in Texas?

In order for a juvenile to be charged with a sexting criminal offense in Texas, certain conditions must be present. According to the law, the following elements must be proven at trial beyond all reasonable doubt before an alleged minor is charged with a sexting offense:

Criteria for Charging a Minor With Sexting Under Penal Code Section 43.261(b)(1):

  • The defendant was a minor child (under 18 years of age) at the time of the offense
  • The defendant intentionally or knowingly by electronic means promotes to another minor visual material
  • The visual material depicted a minor, including the actor, engaging in sexual conduct, and
  • The defendant either produced the visual material or knows that another minor produced the visual material

Criteria for Charging a Minor With Sexting Under Penal Code Section 43.261(b)(2):

  • The defendant was a minor at the time of the offense
  • The defendant intentionally or knowingly possesses in an electronic format visual material depicting another minor engaging in sexual conduct, and
  • The defendant either produced the visual material or knows that another minor produced the visual material

If the defendant did not produce or solicit the visual material and possessed the visual material only after receiving it from another minor, as well as destroyed the visual material within a reasonable amount of time after receiving it from another minor, an experienced juvenile sex crimes attorney can establish a defense on their behalf.

Penalties for Juveniles Accused of Sexting in Texas

The Texas Penal Code, Section 43.261(b)(1) provides for a Class C Misdemeanor if a minor child promotes visual material with the intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another. The crime can be charged as a Class B Misdemeanor if the child has a prior conviction, or a Class A Misdemeanor if the child has two or more prior convictions for the same type of offense.

Child Sexting Statute Terms 

  • The term “minor” means a person younger than 18 years of age.
  • Under the Texas “sexting” statute, the term “produce,” with respect to visual material, includes any conduct that directly contributes to the creation or manufacture of the material.
  • The term “promote” is defined by statute to mean to procure, manufacture, issue, sell, give, provide, lend, mail, deliver, transfer, transmit, publish, distribute, circulate, disseminate, present, exhibit, or advertise or to offer or agree to do any of these actions.
  • The definition of “sexual conduct,” is sexual contact, actual or simulated sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse, sexual bestiality, masturbation, sado-masochistic abuse, or lewd exhibition of the genitals, the anus, or any portion of the female breast below the top of the areola.
  • “Visual material” means any film, photograph, videotape, negative, or slide or any photographic reproduction that contains or incorporates in any manner any film, photograph, videotape, negative, or slide, or any disk, diskette, or other physical medium that allows an image to be displayed on a computer or other video screen and any image transmitted to a computer or other video screen by telephone line, cable, satellite transmission or other method.

Affirmative Defenses Under Texas Penal Code Section 43.261(e)

It is an affirmative defense to prosecution that the visual material depicted only the defendant or another minor who is:

  • Not more than two years older or younger than the actor and with whom the actor had a dating relationship at the time of the offense, or
  • The spouse of the actor at the time of the offense

The term “preponderance of the evidence” means the greater weight and degree of credible evidence that has been admitted into trial, but is a lesser standard than “beyond any reasonable doubt.”

Contact Our Attorneys for Strategic Legal Defense After a Juvenile Sexting Charge in Texas

If you or your child was charged with the criminal offense of intentionally or knowingly transmitting pictures of sexual nature or depicting sexual conduct involving a minor child, contact the knowledgeable sex crimes attorneys at Stuckle & Associates PLLC. Our lawyers are experienced in representing both adults and juveniles in sexting cases and will work tirelessly to help you surpass your charges.

Sexting is often classified as a misdemeanor offense, prosecuted in juvenile court. Our attorneys are familiar with the best ways to fight the charges for an outright dismissal, diversion program, or reduction to a less serious offense. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more about the defenses available for your particular case.

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