The star of a Netflix show is under investigation by the FBI for soliciting sex and nude photos from minors, according to USA Today. The criminal investigation is based on allegations brought by 14-year-old twin brothers. Sexting is becoming more and more common and getting more and more people in trouble.
Sexting is the sending of nude, suggestive or sexually explicit photos by electronic means, usually by cellphone.
While some states have enacted criminal laws against sexting, Maryland has not. In states like Maryland, that have no specific legislation, sexting is usually prosecuted under child pornography laws. Basically, it’s a crime to distribute or produce child pornography. Although child pornography laws are intended to severely punish adults who exploit children, child pornography laws and related charges can also be used against teens who engage in sexting.
A person who causes or allows a child under the age of 18 to be photographed in sexual conduct can lead to a criminal charge under Maryland’s child pornography laws. It’s also a crime for anyone to possess and retain an image or video of a child under the age of 16 engaged in sexual conduct or in a state of sexual excitement. For example, if a 15-year-old girl sends a sexually explicit photo of herself to her boyfriend via text message and he keeps the image on his phone, he could be convicted of possession of illicit sexually explicit material.
In Maryland, it is also a crime to show or send a minor – someone under the age of 18 — nude or sexually suggestive photos or images. For example, if an 18-year-old texts a nude photo of his 17-year-old girlfriend, he could be convicted under this law.
Maryland Penalties for Sexting
Child pornography is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $25,000 or both. Subsequent convictions are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $50,000 or both.
Sharing obscene material with a minor is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 or both. Second and subsequent convictions are punishable by up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
Possession of sexually explicit material dealing with a minor is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500 or both. Subsequent convictions are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.
In Maryland, people who are convicted of child pornography or possession of sexually explicit material featuring children under the age of 18 are also required to register as sex offenders.
Federal statutes can come into play because people in Maryland who engage in sexting can also be charged under federal laws.
One possibility for federal charges is the “The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today Act (PROTECT) of 2003.” The act makes it illegal to produce, distribute, receive or possess with intent to distribute any obscene visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Knowing possession of such material without intent to distribute is also a crime under the PROTECT Act.
Depending on the circumstances, a person who distributes or publishes nude photos of a teenager can be charged with harassment.
In the case involving the Netflix star, the twin boys making the allegations “described a pattern of harassment, both online and at cheer competitions, that started when they were 13” and the adult male was 19, USA Today has reported.
In addition, students who engage in such behavior can be suspended or expelled under most schools’ anti-bullying policy.
It’s worth noting that non-commercial and private sending of sexually explicit photos by adults done by mutual consent is generally permitted.
If you are charged with the crime of child pornography or sexting in Baltimore or Ocean City, you should talk to a sex crimes attorney as soon as possible. A Baltimore sex crimes lawyer can review your case for defenses and an opportunity to plea bargain or to get the Maryland sex crime charges reduced. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling Ocean City and Baltimore sex crime charges.
The Law Office of Thomas J. Maronick is open during the pandemic and will continue to meet your Ocean City and surrounding areas, Baltimore city and Baltimore county legal needs. We can meet with you remotely if you have access to Zoom. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.934.3007 or via our website for a free consultation.