Sexting is harmless –– until it isn’t. Sending or receiving the wrong thing in the context of sexting can actually get you into serious legal trouble. Washington state sexting laws can be harsh and unforgiving to those who are accused of violating them.
That’s why it’s so important to understand these laws, how they could affect you, and what to do if you’re charged. Read on to learn more, or give the criminal defense lawyers at Will & Will a call.
What Is Sexting?
The word “sexting” combines the words “sex” and “texting.” That probably gives you a pretty good idea of what sexting is. Sexting occurs when someone sends, receives, or forwards sexually explicit photos, videos, or even messages with their cell phone. Sexting is particularly common among teens and young adults, but these messages, images, and videos can depict or affect anyone of any age.
Much like many other forms of sexual activity, sexting is not illegal in general. But if you are accused of crossing certain lines that break Washington state sexting laws, you could find yourself charged with a serious crime.
3 Washington State Sexting Laws
Whether you have been charged with a crime related to sexting or are concerned that you might be, the best first step is often to arm yourself with knowledge. Learning about sexting laws in Washington state can help you understand how to fight back and what kinds of consequences you might face.
Image of a Minor Above Age 13
Since teens are among the most likely groups to engage in sexting, sexting laws can often get minors into trouble. Under the Revised Code of Washington, Section 9.68A.053, it is illegal for minors over the age of 13 to send sexually explicit images of another minor over 13 to anyone via their phones.
While this is the least severe offense related to sexting, it can still be a misdemeanor if the image shows another minor’s private areas. And it jumps up to a gross misdemeanor if the image shows a minor doing any sexual act.
For first-time offenders, a minor may be eligible for a diversion program. This is an alternative to criminal prosecution. If the accused minor completes counseling, community service, financial restitution, or any other terms the program calls for, they can avoid having a criminal conviction on their record.
Image of a Minor Under Age 13
Washington state sexting laws become much harsher if the minor depicted in the messages is younger than 13. A minor can be charged with a crime for simply having a sexually explicit image of a minor younger than 13 in their possession. That means you or your child can be charged with a crime without sharing the image or video with anyone.
Being accused of breaking this law means you are being charged with a Class B felony. If the image in question shows the minor engaging in a sexual act, it’s a first-degree offense. If the image is sexually explicit but does not depict a sex act, it’s a second-degree offense.
For adults, Class B felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. But if the accused is a minor, they will likely be sentenced under Washington’s juvenile sentencing standards. However, minors over age 15 can be sentenced as adults for felony sex crimes involving children. Those convicted of these crimes may also be forced to register as sex offenders.
Anyone over the age of 18 is considered an adult in Washington state. And no adult is allowed to possess or send a sexually explicit image of a minor, regardless of the minor’s age. If you are in possession of such images or videos, you would be facing charges of possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct under the Revised Code of Washington, Section 9.68A070.
You could also be charged with “dealing” in these depictions under the Revised Code of Washington, Section 9.68A.050. A violation of this law is a Class B felony. The crime is considered more severe if the image depicts a minor engaging in a sex act and will result in a first-degree charge. Other sexually explicit images of minors may result in second-degree charges.
Up to 10 years in prison, as much as $20,000 in fines, and registration as a sex offender are just the start of the penalties an adult can face if they are convicted of this charge.
The other charge you could face is Communication with a Minor for Immoral Purposes under the Revised Code of Washington, Section 9.68A.090 –– while this charge could be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony, it is most typically filed as a felony when the communication is electronic. A conviction for this charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony carries a requirement to register as a sex offender in Washington state for 10 years.
Sexting Consequences in Washington State
If you sext without breaking Washington state sexting laws, there are no legal consequences. But if you are accused of breaking these laws, you could face one or more of the following punishments if you are convicted:
- Time in jail and/or prison
- Registration as a sex offender
- Community service
- Damage to your reputation
- Trouble finding a job
- Trouble qualifying for certain kinds of housing
These are severe penalties with severe impacts on your life. But even if you are facing a sexting charge, the future isn’t all dark. That’s because you can fight back with the help of a trusted criminal defense lawyer.
Your lawyer can help you tell your side of the story, fight for you in court, and work with the prosecution to find a fair resolution to this situation. They may even be able to help you beat your charge altogether.
Contact Will & Will for Legal Assistance
A charge related to Washington State sexting laws can seriously harm your future. The good news is that you don’t have to sit back and wait for your punishment. You can team up with an experienced lawyer to defend yourself.
At Will & Will, we have more than 35 years of experience helping those accused of crimes get their lives back. During those 35 years, we have seen sexting laws form as texting has taken the world by storm, and we have learned all the ways to defend someone accused of a sexting-related crime. We’re more than ready to help you.
To get started, schedule a free consultation. Call Will & Will at 206-209-5585 or contact us online today.