Utah Sexting Laws

With the majority of Utah kids having their first cell phone by age 10-12, it is important that parents discuss sexting laws and how they apply to minors.

Utah Sexting Laws
Photo by: Summer Skyes 11

Electronic dirty talk

One practice that continues to rise in popularity among Utah teens is sexting. According to dictionary.com, sexting is defined as “the sending of sexually explicit photos, images, text messages, or e-mails by using a cell phone or other mobile device.” While many teens get away with sexting time and time again, it is against the law and will result in criminal penalties if they are caught.

Utah sexting laws

Currently every state has a law that criminalizes sexting that includes images of minors, although many states group sexting in with child pornography or sexual exploitation of a minor. There are three laws in the Utah State Code that teens should be aware of before they send, receive, or share explicit images or videos of other teens.

Sexual exploitation of a minor

According to Utah Code 76-5b-201, “(1) A person is guilty of sexual exploitation of a minor: when the person:

(i) knowingly produces, possesses, or possesses with intent to distribute child pornography; or

(ii) intentionally distributes or views child pornography; ( . . . )

Sexual exploitation of a minor is a second degree felony and charges for sexual exploitation of a minor can be multiplied depending on how many minors are depicted and/or how many times the same minor appears in different pictures or videos.

Giving explicit material to minors

Photo by: Leo Hildalgo
Photo by: Leo Hildalgo

Utah Code 76-10-1206 warns “(1)A person is guilty of dealing in material harmful to minors when, knowing or believing that a person is a minor, or having negligently failed to determine the proper age of a minor, the person intentionally:

(a) distributes or offers to distribute, or exhibits or offers to exhibit, to a ( . . . ), any material harmful to minors;

(b) produces, performs, or directs any performance, before a minor ( . . . ) that is harmful to minors; or

(c) participates in any performance, before a minor ( . . . ) that is harmful to minors.

(2) (a) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person 18 years of age or older is a third degree felony ( . . . )

(b) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person 16 or 17 years of age is a class A misdemeanor.

(c) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person younger than 16 years of age is a class B misdemeanor.”

Distributing porn

Utah code 76-10-1203 states “(1) Any material or performance is pornographic if:

(a) The average person, applying contemporary community standards, finds that, taken as a whole, it appeals to prurient interest in sex;

(b) It is patently offensive in the description or depiction of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sadomasochistic abuse, or excretion; and

(c) Taken as a whole it does not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

If someone shares or otherwise distributes or attempts to distribute pornographic material, adults 18 and older may face a third degree felony for each item of pornographic material shared or produced while 16-17 year olds face a class A misdemeanor, and under 16 year olds face a class B misdemeanor.

Photo by: Maurizio Pesce
Photo by: Maurizio Pesce

What’s posted on the internet stays on the internet

With so many options to “delete” content shared, too many teens have the false sense of security that they can share a picture or video briefly and never have to worry about it again. Unfortunately, what’s posted on the internet stays on the internet. Besides other individuals who screenshot or otherwise save things they’ve been sent online, the internet has a way of somehow storing embarrassing or incriminating pictures forever. It is important to warn teens that sexually explicit images or videos that are shared can resurface and that type of content will result in criminal charges.

Teen Sexting For All to See

Even though teen sexting has been a concern of many parents, educators and lawmakers for quite awhile, a new study shows how long-lasting the effects of sexting can truly be.

Photo: Shawn Rossi

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a United Kingdom-based organization, recently released their data on the long-term problems that teen sexting can present for youth who take explicit pictures of themselves.

Sexting is the term used for sharing sexually revealing pictures of yourself online. The IWF study discovered that 88% of a portion of explicit pictures and videos uploaded by juveniles made it onto websites other than the ones they were originally found on—in less than a week’s time.

In other words, a teen could sext a picture of himself to a friend or post a picture on his blog, but that same picture might easily end up on a pornographic website elsewhere. Additionally, the study showed that once a picture has been copied to another site deleting it is nearly impossible.

While it might seem fun and exciting now, teen sexting can come back to haunt you later. Think before you send any info—pictures or words—to another individual. Once out, you can’t take them back.

Parents need to talk to their kids about the problems relating to teen sexting. Kids have enough worries in this world without adding to them by getting themselves in legal, school or personal trouble.

If you are the parent of a kid being investigated for or charged with sexting, take time to contact a Utah juvenile defense attorney. Do your child a favor and get him the help he needs.

Utah Teens Who “Sext”

Texting is a common, usually daily, occurrence for many Utah teen. Texting too much may get a teen into trouble with their parents over the cell phone bill, but excessive texting isn’t against the law. The last few years has seen the advent of a new type of communication called “sexting.” Sexting is sending sexually explicit photos or messages electronically, usually from one cell phone to another.

Photo: Jeramey Jannene

Sexting in Utah is a misdemeanor. The penalties for misdemeanors range from up to 90 days in jail for a class C misdemeanor; up to 6 months in jail for a class B misdemeanor and up to 1 year in jail for a class A misdemeanor. Before you sext anyone, you may want to ask yourself if sexting is worth any amount of time spent in jail or detention. Not only can sexting give you a criminal record, it can also damage your personal pride.

If you are tempted to sext, avoid it at all costs. If someone wants to see you naked, don’t comply. You never know where pictures sent through cell phones or over the internet will end up. You may think you’re in a loving, lifelong relationship with a person, only to find that relationship over next week and any pictures you’ve sent them spread abroad for all to behold. Don’t get charged with a crime because you’re trying to impress or attract someone. The consequences aren’t worth it. Protect yourself and keep your clothes on. If you’re already in trouble with the law for sexting or any other crime, hire a Utah juvenile defense attorney without delay. Don’t get in any deeper than you already are.