The act of sexting is not illegal under Michigan law. It is a criminal offense to send photos that are sexually explicit of people who are not 18 years old. If a defendant had reason to know or knew that the person in the photo was under the age of 18, the defendant will be facing extremely harsh penalties. In addition to a person facing child pornography charges, a person who engages in sexting can face other serious charges. One such charge is possessing obscene material.
Yet another charge is intent to distribute child sexually abusive material. If you are a young person in school sexting, you may face being suspended or even expelled for sending or possessing photos because of anti-bullying laws. In this blog, you find information explaining what sexting is, what the punishments are for violating Michigan sexting laws and federal laws regarding sexting.
What is Sexting?
The act of sexting composes of the sharing of explicit of suggestive photos by any electronic means. The most obvious example of this would by a text message. While Michigan has no specific legislation on this issue, we have represented teenagers who have been prosecuted for possession of child pornography. The law was created to punish adults who are exploiting children.
Let’s be real here, many minors who live in Michigan possess cell phones or other devices of an electronic nature that can take pictures of high resolution. Technological advances allow MMS and SMS messaging have created a surge in deviate and mischievous behavior. Preteen, minors and teens who have a cell phone now have the ability to send semi-nude and nude photos to boyfriends, friends and girlfriends. There are many times when these photos end up being forwarded to other people. The other person often ends up being someone the sender did not want viewing the photograph. Pornographic websites often end up getting these pictures and posting them on-line.
Sexting Happens All The Time!
While we can’t find any concrete figures about how often sexting happens, we can gather important information from reliable sources. These sources tell us that up to twenty percent of teenagers have sent suggestive of nude photos of themselves to another person. Remember! The sending of nude photos is illegal if the person in the photo is younger than 18. While the non-commercial and private sharing of sexually explicit photos between adults is more often then not illegal; even if it violates a state law regarding obscenity, it’s never prosecuted successfully anymore.
Our schools, courts and parents have struggled trying to deal with sexting. The distribution of a nude photo of semi-nude photo often results in humiliation. These sexted images sometimes end up falling into the hands of pornographers and deeply disturbed child predators.
Child Pornography and Michigan Sexting Laws
Child sexually abusive material, also called Child pornography, is the depiction of a person younger than 18 engaging in a sex act. This act can be in a video or a photo. The definition of a sex act is very broadly defined. It includes the touching of a person’s private parts.
The distribution of child pornography and possession of such material is also illegal material covered under Michigan sexting law. A person is not allowed to produce, create, finance or copy child pornography. A person is not allowed to persuade or force a child to engage in sexual activity. If a 19-year-old bf has his girlfriend pose nude for him in a photo, he could be charged for making child pornography under (Mich. Comp Laws Ann. & 750.145c.)
Federal Law And Sexting
You never want to face federal charges. The feds carry a much bigger hammer than state prosecutors do. We see people go to prison all the time after convictions for federal charges. We also notice that many of these same people would only do jail time if they were charged with state offenses for the same federal crime. Depending on the factual circumstances, sexting can also be prosecuted under federal law.
In 2003, The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT ACT) went into effect. It made it illegal to distribute, possess with intent to distribute, receive or produce any obscene visual depiction of a minor engaged in conduct that is sexually explicit. Federal law also makes it a serious crime to cause a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct. A parent of a child who allows their child to engage in this illegal conduct will also be prosecuted. (18 U.S.C. § 2251.)
The feds can also prosecute people for using a computer to transport, ship, receive, reproduce for distribution or distribute a depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct. This statue also makes it a crime to ship, receive, transport or distribute material that is child pornography. (18 U.S.C. § § 2252, 2252A.)
There is some good news when it comes to being prosecuted by the Feds for sexting, it seems unlikely the feds would prosecute a juvenile. Under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA), juveniles should be prosecuted in state courts instead of federal courts. (18 U.S.C. § 5032.)
Harassment and Bullying
The number of young people who own or have access to mobile phones and social media has skyrocketed. This has caused a rise in bullying online and an increase in harassment. Private insults and even public insults and embarrassing photos can be shared extremely fast. In some extreme cases of bullying, minors are charged for assault and even for the encouragement of murder!
Punishment For Violating Michigan Sexting Laws
Under Michigan law, a person who makes child pornography will face up to 20 years in prison. The fine for this can be up to $100,000. A person who is caught distributing child pornography will face up to seven-year sin prison and a fine of $50,000. Possession of child pornography can send a person to prison for up to four years. Possessing child pornography that shows a child engaging in a sex act will result a charge of “Child Sexually Abusive Material Aggravated Possession, punishable by up to ten years in prison.”
Obscenity charges are misdemeanors. The maximum punishment for this is up to one year in jail. (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § § 750.145c, 752.365.)
Sex Offender Registration
If you are convicted of child pornography charges, you will be required to register as a sex offender. Under Michigan law, sex offenders must provide police with their contact information, photographs and names. The vast majority of this information is made public. (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § § 28.722, 28.723.)
The Right Approach to Handling Sexting Charges in Michigan
The Criminal Defense Law Center of West Michigan and Attorney Shawn James Haff are willing and able to defend aggressively if you are facing child pornography charges from sexting. We have found that sexing cases are on the rise in Michigan. Prosecutors can charge minors now under child pornography laws. Please protect your teenager from sex offender registration and prison time by hiring Shawn or one of his skilled criminal defense lawyers.
We will fight for justice in all local courts. We strongly believe that the punishment someone gets should fit the crime. Anyone that retains us who has been wrongfully charged for sexting will be given a vigorous defense. We will stop at nothing to get you the absolute best results possible! If you are a minor who is charged with sexting, we will stop at nothing to get you the diversion program calling HYTA.
We promise all our clients that we will investigate every detail of a sexting case we are working on. We will provide an individualized case strategy that will be very effective on a child pornography case. We believe that Michigan’s outdated stance on sexting cases result in far too many young people being convicted of serious felonies and then being required to register as a sex offender for a really long period of time.
If anyone you know has been charged for sexting images of their girlfriend or boyfriend, call Shawn right now at 616-438-6719! If your child has been accused child pornography in any Michigan court, you need to get in touch with Shawn right away! Do not wait! Waiting will only cause things to get worse for you and your loved one! The call is free, and you will be given a free case strategy session when you talk to Shawn.