Is Sexting A Crime?

Is Sexting A Crime? Laws you need to know for sending nudes.

Did you know that when you send a sexy selfie, you might actually be committing a crime? Okay, chances are you're not breaking any laws, but there are some issues around sexting that you should probably familiarize yourself with before you begin your next session. In most cases, you're probably perfectly within the realms of the law, but it's always good to know exactly what constitutes a sexting charge.

Not only that, but laws can differ based on individual state. What might be fine in California might not be so acceptable in Texas. The law is confusing at the best of times, and when you throw in hot topics like sex, consent and harassment, it's easy to end up violating laws you didn't even know existed. Is sexting illegal? Very rarely, but we're here to tell you how sexting can potentially result in criminal prosecution.

Is Sexting Legal For Adults?

In most cases, there are no laws against sexting with like-minded, consenting adults through online or SMS messages. This includes the exchanging of racy messages, explicit photos and videos and anything else that might fall under the sexting banner. Providing both partners are willingly engaging in these acts of virtual intimacy, there are no laws or legal consequences to concern yourself with.

While sexting laws are still a grey area in most states, the point at which sexting becomes a crime (at least for adults) concerns that of consent. If one partner shows reluctance to begin or continue a sexting conversation, yet the other person ignores their requests, this is the point at which it may become a crime to send sexually explicit images or text messages. Doing so can then result in criminal charges depending on the severity of the crime.

Any criminal conviction can have very serious consequences, but the stakes are even higher when the crime is a sex offense involving a child. An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide you with appropriate legal advice and inform you of the potential consequences, including whether a conviction could result in sex offender registration.


We all know what consent is. Acceptance, willingness, agreement, permission. And when it comes sex and sexting, it should be clear to most people when consent is not granted. Of course, this can still be something of a grey area, since it takes a little initiative in order to gauge a person's willingness to join in a sexting session. Sexting rarely begins with one person asking the other outright if they grant their consent.

And this is one such area where online sexually explicit conduct can be deemed illegal. If you begin sexting someone, to which they respond that they're not interested, continuing to do so is considdered a form of sex crime. Consent should be gained beforehand, but given the general flow and initiation of sexting sessions, this isn't always the case. Therefore, if your sexting partner refuses, cease all adult talk immediately.

Sexting without consent is a form of sexual harassment and is punishable depending on the severity of the crime. Light sentences may involve community service and short stints in state or county prison. More serious crimes, such as unwilling bombardment of nude photos can result in considerably harsher punishments.


Harassment involves the coercion of sexual images, texts and other materials from an unwilling partner. If someone pesters you to sext with them, share nude photos or engage in other forms of online intimacy, this can be construed as harassment and is a massively punishable crime. Under federal law, a harasser can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.

Prosecutors will also take into account the harasser's motivations for committing such crimes. For example, many harassment cases involve blackmail and extortion. What may begin as a consensual exchange of sexually explicit messages may evolve into one person demanding more pornographic images, with the harasser threatening to leak previously-sent photos if their request goes ignored.

Even though sexting is a relatively new phenomenon, sexting harassment cases are so common they've since become one of the most frequent sex crimes.

Revenge Porn

Revenge porn falls in line with the harassment point above. For those who don't know, revenge porn is the act of publicly-posting a person's private explicit images as a form of perceived payback. It's often employed by scorned exes or people who've been rejected by women at the initial sexting stage. You may have seen websites entirely dedicated to displaying these types of images.

Sometimes referred to as 'image-based sexual abuse,' sexual abuse was officially deemed a criminal offence in 2019 - at least in 46 states. Disseminating obscene material of others with the intent of causing emotional distress is punishable up to two years in county jail. However, there are no laws against revenge porn in Wyoming, Mississippi, South Carolina and Massachussetts.


Catfishing is the act of impersonating someone else online in order to deceive the recipient. Usually, the end goal is to extort sexually explicit images or money from the other person, but motivations for catfishing can vary greatly. It often takes the form of a man posing as a woman utilizing photos of amateur women stolen off the Internet. Other times, it can involve impersonating celebrities or public figures.

Strangely, there is no law against catfishing. It's not illegal to impersonate someone else online, but what follows during catfishing exchanges may indeed be illegal. For example, if communication during catfishing falls into any of the categories mentioned above, or if it involves the exploitation or solicitation of minors, then it can result in criminal charges.

Is Sexting Legal For Minors?

The simple answer is no. Any type of sexting that involves minors is considered sexual exploitation of children and is therefore punishable to the fullest extent of the law. Receiving or sending child pornography are considered federal crimes in every part of the United States. There are no exceptions. Posession of child pornography will most likely land you as a registered sex offender.

When sexting involves minors, it violates both state and federal child pornography laws. Such crimes can result in child pornography charges that can result in significant sentences of up to 15 years in state prison. Possessing child pornography in any form, regardless of context, is enough to warrant a serious investigation into the person's activities - and rightly so. Unless they've been sent such materials unwillingly, no one should possess such visual depictions.

Adults Sexting Minors

Known as grooming, adults sexting minors is a severe crime and can be punishable for up to 25 years in state prison depending on the state law in question. When it comes to sexting laws around minors, any type of virtual sexual interaction with an underage person is a criminal offense. There are no grey areas as children and young teens cannot knowingly give consent.

It is not illegal to exchange messages with a minor online, only if those messages involve a) sexual discussions, b) receiving or sending explicit images or c) explicit content of any form.

Minors Sexting Minors

No mater your age, sending sexually explicit messages to a minor is illegal - even if you're a minor yourself. Laws differ depending on state, country and locality, but in most cases, anyone under age the 18 found to be sexting can be investigated by the necessary authorities. Child enticement laws can also be very harsh, and the crime is often punishable by long prison terms.

There's been much debate about the sexting laws around minors sexting minors. Some localities believe that curious teenagers may be drawn to sexting before they reach the age of consent, but 'consent' has no meaning for minors as they're not considered self-responsible. Claiming consent is not an affirmative defense for minors as they're not yet able to envisage the present and future possible consequences of what they do in the realm of adults.

Child Pornography

Possession of child pornography is a federal crime and, in the majority of cases, will eventually result in an offender being placed on the sex offender registration. Of course, someone may send you such materials against your will, and in such cases, you should inform the authorities immediately.

Child pornography laws can be very harsh, and many impose years in prison for each image discovered in yourp possession. Repeat offenses of child pornography possession can result in life imprisonment in many states.

State Laws on Sexting

Laws around the sharing of sexual content may differ depending on individual state law. What is considered illegal in one area may not be in another. The following states have alternative laws surrounding sext-based crimes.

Sexting Laws In Texas

Texas law does not specifically prohibit sexting, but it does consider it a crime when sexual communications occur between adults and minors. Possessing child pornography is punishable by up to 25 years in prison, although harsher sentences may be carried out for more severe crimes.

Additionally, any sexually explicit conduct occuring between two minors can result in punishment for those involved. Any underage people found guilty of minor sexting will be trialled under juvenile law.

Sexting Laws in California

Is sexting illegal in California? Not at all. Is minor sexting illegal in California? Very much so. California recently imposed a a new law to address sexting between underage parties, resulting in some of the harshest punishments anywhere in the United States.

California Penal Code 311 PC makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly possess child pornography if they commit sexting with a minor and save sexually explicit images on their mobile device. Similarly, Penal Code 311.3 PC makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly develop, duplicate, or exchange media depicting someone under 18 years engaging in an act of sexual conduct.

Sexting Laws in Florida

Florida has some of the more lax laws around sexting images and texts. There are no laws against consenting adults sexting, and in the cases of adult-minor sexting, there are laws in place to protect any adult who has accidentally been sent an explicit or nude photo of an underage person or persons.

While minor-on-minor sexting is considered a crime, Florida's 2020 law protects underage persons who may have unknowingly engaged in sexting unaware of the potential consequences. As a minor in Florida, sending or receiving nude pictures or explicit content from another underage person will warrant investigation by the authorities. However, Florida favors education and reformation rather than punishment in such instances.