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What Wisconsin's Laws Say About "Sexting"

Cell phone use risen rapidly over the last two decades, and today most people have a cell phone, including teenagers. With this rise in cell phone use has come an increased amount of “sexting,” or sending illicit, nude, or otherwise sexually-suggestive text messages, including pictures. What many people don’t realize is just how much trouble this practice could get them in, especially if they are unaware of what Wisconsin’s laws have to say about it. To help you know the laws before you hit the send button, here is a brief summary of what our state’s laws have to say about sexting.

Know the Age of the Recipient

The single most important factor in sexting is the age of the parties involved. When both parties are over the age of 18 and send and receive the lewd material willfully, then the law says no crime has occurred. However, any images that depict someone under the age of 18 could be classified as “child pornography,” and subject you to the laws and penalties accordingly.

Under these laws, it’s illegal to possess or view a depiction of a child engaged in sexual conduct in any medium, including text messages. However, it goes the other way as well: adults are strictly forbidden from sending any sexually-explicit or lewd material to an underage individual for the purpose of their own sexual gratification or arousal. In both these cases, the adult could be subject to felony charges, even if the child was willingly engaging in the conduct.

Furthermore, an adult making contact with a minor for the purpose of grooming them to send sexually explicit material could be penalized under “child grooming” laws, which are usually levied in addition to child pornography possession.

Teen Sexting

As sexting has increased in the adult population, so too has it increased amongst teenagers. This is where the law also gets a little dicey. Wisconsin is one of a select few states that does not have a “Romeo and Juliet” exemption, meaning certain sex crimes have exemptions for young lovers who are close in age. This includes child pornography.

As a result, teenagers who exchange lewd or nude material could both be charged with child pornography viewing and possession. These offenses are extremely serious both for children and adults, though if the case is tried in juvenile court, the judge will have a much greater ability to use discretion when levying penalties. That being said, those convicted could be fined up to $10,000 and kept in custody for up to three years and six months!

Have you been accused of child pornography charges due to sexting? You need a Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer on your side. Call the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella today by dialing (414) 882-8382 and request a case evaluation now!
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