“Sexting” is the transmission of sexually explicit photos or videos by phone, computer, or other electronic device. What may appear harmless fun to the sender and, perhaps to the receiver, law enforcement may regard as a sex crime. Although no Massachusetts law specifically addresses sexting, it is possible to violate a number of state laws by sexting, particularly if it involves minors.
Taking sexually explicit photographs for personal use is not a new phenomenon. Couples have been taking such photographs for years. Prior to the digital age, these photographs mostly remained within the exclusive possession of the couples or individuals involved. Today, digital photographs may be disseminated and re-disseminated with ease from computers and smart phones. With each recipient having his own copy of the original, the photograph may live on indefinitely. That teenagers do not appreciate the need to keep these photographs private or their obligations under a myriad of criminal statutes does not insulate them from prosecution.
If you or your son or daughter has been accused of sexting related crime, call us at 617-492-0055 to schedule a free, in-office consultation.
How Criminal Statutes Can be Applied to Sexting
Though child pornography laws were enacted to protect minors from predators, there is little to prevent law enforcement from using these laws to prosecute young adults and teenagers with sex crimes. Below, please find criminal statutes under which an individual may be charged for sexting involving a minor.
Massachusetts G.L. c. 272, §28 criminalizes the sending or possessing of “matter” that is “harmful” to minors. Should an 18-year-old send a partially nude photograph of himself or someone else to a 17-year-old, law enforcement could prosecute him under §28.
Massachusetts G.L. c. 272, §29A prohibits an adult from encouraging a minor to allow someone to photograph him in the nude, partially nude, or engaged in a sex act. Should an 18-year-old girl photograph herself having sex with her 17-year-old boyfriend, law enforcement could prosecute her under §29A. This statute also criminalizes distributing photographs or videos of a minor engaged in a sex act, nude, or partially nude. In 2009, the Falmouth Police Department sought criminal charges against a group of adolescent boys between the ages of 12 and 14 under §29A for sharing a photograph, via text messaging, of one of the boy’s girlfriends, a 13-year-old. The Clerk Magistrate for the Falmouth District Court eventually dismissed the application for the criminal charges. A conviction under §29A is punishable by imprisonment not less than ten nor more than twenty years, or by a fine of not less than $10,000 nor more than $50,000.
Massachusetts G.L. c. 272, §29B criminalizes the dissemination of “visual material” containing a reproduction of a minor in a “state of nudity.” Under §29B, law enforcement could prosecute a 17-year-old girl for sexting a photograph of her 17-year-old boyfriend to another teenage friend. A conviction for violating §29B is punishable by a term of not less than ten nor more than twenty years in state prison, or by a fine of not less than $10,000 nor more than $50,000.
Massachusetts G.L. c. 272, §29C prohibits purchasing or possessing a photograph, video, book, etc., of a minor in the nude, partially nude, or engaged in a sex act. Should a 15-year-old boy receive a nude photograph from his 14-year-old girlfriend, he would possess a photograph in violation of the statute. A conviction under §29C is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Subsequent convictions under this statute are punished more severely.
Contact a Cambridge Sexting Crimes Lawyer
Kevin J. Mahoney is a Cambridge Sexting Crimes Lawyer. Contact Kevin J. Mahoney at 617-492-0055 to arrange a free in-office consultation. He has won nearly every jury trial where his client was charged with sex crimes, including rape, in the Superior Courts of Boston, Cambridge, Woburn, and Brockton.