Sexting" is a word you have probably heard but might not be able to define.For purposes of this article, "sexting" is the practice of sending nude or semi-nude pictures by cell phone or other electronic media; it is a sexual text ('sext') message.Teen sexting confronts attorneys and courts with new and complicated legal issues.Moreover, a sexting teen's social and legal problems often converge at the schoolhouse door.For example, child sex offenders 17 and older cannot be present on school grounds or loiter or reside within 500 feet of the school building. See Kara Rowland, , WKYC-TV (Apr 13, 2009), online at /print.aspx? The following example places the foregoing offenses in perspective: a 16-year-old girl who snaps a sexual, semi-nude picture of herself to send as a phone message to her boyfriend has committed at least three felonies by creating, disseminating, and possessing "child pornography." If her boyfriend requested she send the sext message, he is subject to at least two felonies: soliciting and voluntarily possessing the sext message. For attorneys who counsel educational institutions, it is only a matter of time before they must grapple with sexting-related issues.
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Finding and deleting an unsolicited sext message an hour after its receipt better demonstrates involuntary possession than does carrying a sext message on the phone for two months or more.
The Act dictates that cell phones used for sexting by minors must be For example, students who post prohibited pictures on their Facebook pages have likely violated federal criminal law. In Illinois, someone who commits the offense of child pornography is a "sex offender" and must register and report as such.
but even compliant individuals face the shame and scrutiny of public reporting. Michelle Manchir, , Chicago Tribune (posted March 18, 2010), online at A similar bill, HB 4583, passed the Illinois House on March 11.
Beyond registering and reporting as sex offenders, students convicted of child pornography may also be bound by other restrictions that can significantly complicate their lives. Bland, , Arizona Republic (Aug 27, 2009) (cited in note 6) ("Lawmakers in Vermont, Utah and Ohio are making sexting a misdemeanor instead of a felony when the cases involve teenagers, and as long as the sender voluntarily transmitted the image."). Act of May 9, 2009, 2009 Vt Laws 58§ 4, to be codified at 13 VSA§ 2802b, online at Another slightly more punitive sexting bill, HB 5164, was still alive at presstime. Telephone conversation with Dave Haslett, Chief of the Illinois Attorney General’s High Tech Crimes Bureau (Sep 28, 2009). See Bassett, , The Telegraph (Jun 27, 2009) (cited in note 5) (Explaining that school districts are reviewing and amending policy to account for recent sexting behavior). Telephone conversation with Daniel Spillman, attorney for the Illinois Attorney General High Tech Crimes Bureau (May 13, 2009).