The act of sexting is defined as the sending or receiving sexually provocative messages, commonly nudes, via any electronic means of communication. It is a common practice among couples as a form of intimacy. It is generally legal as long as the practitioners are two consenting adults. However, the offshoots of it are prone to exploitation (i.e., unconsented distribution). That is why California Penal Code PC 647j4 explicitly states the prohibited actions when it comes to handling materials gathered via sexting. Violating the prohibitions can result in a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail or a maximum fine of $1,000, sometimes both.
Sexting is legally acceptable if consenting adults do it. Forms of this vary from:
- suggestive messages with the intent to provoke sexual responses, and
- nude pictures or videos that are depicting lewd imagery.
However, due to its exploitative nature, many people usually face the negative consequences of sexting. The situation usually goes like this. Couples exchange nudes with each other because doing such keeps the romance alive via sexual provocations. Everything's all well until they break up. One party did not take the separation well; because of that, he/she threatened him/her to leak the nudes online if they don't get back together.
That was just one of the many ways sexting can violate PC 647j4 others include but are not limited to:
- Intentionally distributing intimate images that are supposed to be confidential (PC 647j4 A),
- Asking other people to distribute personal pictures or videos on one's behalf without the person's consent (PC 647j4 B) and,
- Distributing full or parts of materials that are intimate in nature (PC 647j4 C).
Punishments for breaking the Penal Code 647j4 in the state of California
Violators proven guilty are charged with a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is a crime that usually comes with a sentence that lasts 365 days or less in county jail; it is more severe than an infraction but less severe than a felony. The punishment includes:
- jail time of 6 months up to a year, and/or,
- a fine of up to $1,000 or more.
Some misdemeanor offenses are considered "wobblers." A wobbler is a misdemeanor that is usually charged either more or less seriously by the prosecutor.
Other forms of Sexting related offenses
Aside from violating PC 647j4, there are a plethora of ways sexting can cause harm. Some of these are:
- if sexting turns in an instrument used to harass,
- when sexting becomes a method for threatening or extortion, or
- if one of the participants is a minor (or was a minor during the duration of the act – PC 288.2)
If one of the participants is/was a minor, the accused can face severe charges like:
- If charged as a misdemeanor – one year in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000
- If charged as a felony – a 16 months up to 8 years in a state prison and up to $100,000 worth of fine.
- A potential mandatory lifetime registration as a sex offender. – A restriction, even when on parole, to access many basic services and privileges. Registered Sex Offenders are also mandated to avoid schools, bus stops, gyms, recreation centers, and other public areas that can be used to prey on other potential victims.
By getting a criminal defense lawyer, like one should when it comes to dealing with legal disputes, there are ways to deal with the accusation of violating PC 647j4. A competent attorney might include these conditions as a part of the defense:
- The distribution was under the special exemption of the law (i.e., reporting unlawful activity, complying with a court order, or acting in the course of a lawful public proceeding).
- The distribution was unintentional (i.e., the phone containing explicit materials was stolen and/or hacked).
- There is proof of consent. The defendant can claim that the victim initially consents distribution until it was withdrawn only after the deed was finished.
Alleged violations against PC 647j4 are never just blacks and whites, there are complex nuances that should be discussed and tackled. For that reason, it would be of your best interest to seek professional assistance from one of our many licensed and experienced criminal defense lawyers here in California.
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