Can My Child Be Arrested for Sharing Pictures of Themselves?

David Lindsey, Attorney at Law
can a child get in trouble for sending dirty pictures
Can a child get in trouble for sending dirty pictures? Here’s what you need to know.

Child pornography is any image that depicts a minor engaged in sexual activity or that is sexually suggestive. Sharing such images is a crime in many jurisdictions and can result in severe penalties, including jail time.

Surveys show nearly one in four young people have shared images that fit this description of themselves online. The study, conducted by the cyberbullying research center Ditch the Label, also found that one in seven young people have had someone threaten to share an inappropriate photo of them.

It’s no wonder parents are concerned. In addition to their safety, there are also legal concerns.

Generally speaking, it’s not illegal for someone to share an inappropriate photo of themselves – so-called selfies.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

For example, if the subject of the photo is a minor the content becomes child pornography, which is illegal to possess and/or share.

Also, the court considers photos taken without a subject’s awareness or consent pornographic. You can face criminal charges for sharing possessing or sharing photos like this.

Additionally, if the photo was shared in a way that could embarrass or humiliate the subject, then there could also be legal repercussions.

For instance, if the photo was shared on a social media site like Facebook, a defamation lawsuit is possible.

Colorado Laws

Colorado has a specific statute for minor “sexting.”

The 2018 law created a tiered approach, separating abusive forms of sexting (such as malicious distribution) from consensual electronic exchange of explicit images. This means the court takes the defendant’s intentions into account.

Prior to this law, the only option was to charge a minor involved in sexting with a felony.

Felony charges are still possible under the new law if there are aggravating circumstances. However, according to the law, juveniles MAY NOT be charged with felony exploitation if their conduct is limited to the elements of petty offense (possession) or civil infraction (exchange) under this law.

You can learn more about Colorado’s sexting law here.

Self-Created Pornography Exceptions

At the federal level, the reason why your child is unlikely to face arrest for sharing pictures of themselves is because of a concept called the “self-created child pornography exception.” These legal exceptions apply to images that are created by minors themselves.

In other words, if your child takes a nude or semi-nude picture of themselves, they’re less likely to face charges of possessing or distributing child pornography. But it’s not impossible.

This exception doesn’t mean that your child won’t get in trouble for sharing nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves. They could still face disciplinary action from their school or other consequences from their parents. The person to whom they sent those images, even if that person is also a minor, could also get into trouble.

Remember, laws frequently change. And in the case of child pornography, lawmakers are erring on the side of restriction. The trend is toward broader definitions of child pornography with increased prosecutions and harsher penalties.

What to Do If Your Child Sends Inappropriate Pictures

If you’re concerned about your children sharing nude or semi-nude photos of themselves, the best thing you can do is talk to them about the risks. Explain to them that it’s a bad idea. Even if legal problems don’t arise, they face other risks associated with sharing these kinds of images.

For example, someone could share their pictures without their consent or they could be subjected to cyberbullying.

If you think your child has shared nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves, you can talk to a lawyer to get more information about your legal options. This is especially true if law enforcement launches an investigation.

An experienced attorney can help you understand any charges your child is facing and the potential consequences of those charges. They can also help you navigate the legal process and protect your child’s rights.

Can a child get in trouble for sending dirty pictures?

Was your child accused of doing so?

It’s important that you not speak to law enforcement without first consulting an attorney. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact David Lindsey.

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