High School Sexting: A Criminal Offense

By Allen, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Kyle T. Therrian
Office Number: (972) 562-7549
24 Hr Jail Release: (214) 403-6522


High school is a place neither full people who make great decisions nor people who use sound discretion. For most, we only first began to develop these attributes in high school. At the same time, it seems as though teachers, principals and faculty use quite a bit less disciplinary discretion than they did 10-20 years ago. As a Frisco Teen Court Judge, I frequently see students facing criminal charges for things that used to be resolved “in-house.”

One thing that hasn’t changed over time is teenaged bad decisions with regard to sexual behavior. While far from rampant, in the iPhone-era, high school sexting is inevitable. With as few as four button clicks, young adults can set off a series of events which snowball into serious criminal charges–the type of which can label a person as a sexual offender for life.

Currently, high school sexting is punished under one of two statutes, one statute for material that is transmitted between two minors and one for material that is transmitted from a legal adult (18 years or older) to a minor. These Statutes are listed below:

Texas Penal Code Section 43.261 Electronic Transmission of Visual Material Depicting Minor
In general terms, this section makes it a crime for a person under the age of 18 to send a naked picture depicting a minor to another minor electronically. The depicted minor could be any person including the minor charged with sexting. In most cases, this offense will be a Class C Misdemeanor and many times can be resolved in a manner that avoids long term permanent record implications.

Texas Penal Code Section 43.24 Sale, Distribution, or Display of Harmful Material to Minor
In general terms, this section makes it a crime for a person 18 years or older to exhibit or display naked pictures to a minor, regardless of the age of the person depicted. Most offenses under this section will be a Class A Misdemeanor which carry a potential of a 1 year jail sentence and up to a $4,000 fine. A risk of a sentence this severe is slim, but the risk that this type of offense ends up on a permanent criminal record is significant.

Regardless of which offense your child has been charged with, legal representation is important. There are a variety of ways to resolve a criminal charge/citation. There are only a limited number of ways to resolve a case without lifelong record implications.

*Kyle Therrian is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice on any case you should contact an attorney directly.

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