Laws Pertaining to Sexting in the State of California

Under California law, individuals who distribute, possess Californiaor produce a sexually explicit image of a minor could be charged under the State’s child pornography statutes. If the individual is tried as an adult and is convicted they could receive up to 6 years in jail and will generally be required to register as a sex offender. California lawmakers have recently proposed a bill that would reduce the punishment for first time sexting offenders who are minors. Such punishment would include community service and mandatory counseling (to be paid for by the minor’s parents). In addition, a bill has been proposed in California that would punish a teenager with expulsion from school if they are caught sexting in school.

Legislative Summary

California lawmakers have recently proposed a bill that would make it illegal for a minor to take, send or receive a sexually explicit image of a minor, but if the offender is under the age of 18, the punishment would be in the form of community service and mandatory counseling that would be paid for by the offender’s parents. Most recently, a California lawmaker has proposed a bill in which teens caught sexting in school would be expelled. In general, it appears that the law would apply to the teen if they were on their way to of from school as well as during school hours. It is not clear if the proposed bill would apply to sext messages where the subject of the image was not the student who sent the text. Currently, under California law individuals, regardless of age, who produce, distribute or possess an image of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct are committing a felony. If convicted under the child pornography statutes then an individual could receive up to 6 years in jail and will generally be required to register as a sex offender.

Law and Punishment

In general, the California child pornography statutes provide that:

  • If any person distributes or possesses any obscene matter knowing that the matter depicts a person under the age of 18 years personally engaging in or personally simulating sexual conduct
    • For commercial purposes is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for up to 6 years, or by a fine not exceeding $100,000.
    • For commercial purposes is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for up to 6 years, or by a fine not exceeding $100,000.
    • For exchanging with another person above the age of 18, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for up to 1 year, or by a fine not exceeding $2,000.
    • For exchanging with another person under the age of 18, is guilty of a felony.
  • A person is guilty of sexual exploitation of a child if he or she knowingly develops, duplicates, prints, or exchanges image that depicts a person under the age of 18 years engaged in an act of sexual conduct shall be punished by a fine of not more than $2,000 or by imprisonment in jail for up to 1 year, or by both.
  • If any person produces an image of a minor engaged in sexual acts for commercial purposes is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for up to 6 years, or by a fine not exceeding $100,000.
  • If a person produces an image of a minor engaged in sexual conduct, he or she is guilty of a felony.
  • If found convicted under the child pornography statute a person will generally be required to register as a sex offender.

sobering reality

Separate felony convictions for creation, distribution or possession of child pornography.

Increased penalties if child pornography is used for commercial purposes.

Registration as a sex offender.

Latest News Concerning Sexting in California

Man accused of abusing girl he met at camp

San Francisco Chronicle | June 25, 2012

Fillmore Sexting Case

KEYT.com | May 2, 2012

Sacramento man admits to sexting 13 year old

News 10 ABC | January 23, 2012

Author offers sexting advice

Patch| November 21, 2011

Man arrested for sexting 16 year old

Patch | November 16, 2011

Sexting legislation passes committee

Pasadena Star News | April 5, 2011

Sexting' gets teens on sex offender registry

Daily Aztec | March 3, 2011

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