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Is it illegal for one minor to send another minor a nude pictures of themselves?

San Francisco, CA |

my friend is a minor and he sent his gf who is also a minor a nude pic of himself, and her mom found out and he wanted to know if there is anything she can do.

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Attorney answers 1


"Sexting" is suddenly very common, with a recent study commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and, reporting that 1 in 5 teenagers do it. 20% of teenagers have taken nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves and sent them to someone or posted them online. Most send these gifts to their boyfriend or girlfriend (69 percent) or someone they want to date or hook up with (30 percent).

And what's also very common is that the technology is way ahead of the law. There are efforts to create "Romeo and Juliet" exceptions to existing laws that are used to prosecute this act as a crime, but so far, there's no existing exemption for kids sexting each other, and kids that do this expose themselves, literally in the photos they send, and criminally as child pornographers, with possible prison time as the penalty.

It’s illegal under federal and state child-porn laws to create explicit images of a minor and to posses them or distribute them. These laws were drafted to address adult abuse of minors, but it turns out they don’t exempt minors who create and distribute images, even if the pictures are of them. In fact, prosecutors in several states are going after creator-victims, in both federal and state court. Some kids are being charged as juveniles but under Federal law, there is no such equivalent. Under current sentencing guidelines, a kid could get life in a federal prison for taking pictures of herself/himself and sending them to a fellow teenager to seduce them, and if they manage to get out of prison, they may have to register as a sex offender.

Is this girl's mom willing to prosecute this boy, with the potential stakes being this high? The punishments really don't seem to fit the "crime," and maybe this should handled privately by the affected families and not the judicial system.

Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.