Teen Sexting Laws in Illinois
Sexting means sending sexually explicit images, specifically through electronic means. Generally, consenting adults are free to send sexually explicit images of themselves or other adults. But when teenagers sext, they commit a criminal offense. This is because they are exchanging sexually explicit photos of children.
States treat sexting differently; some punish it under child pornography laws, while others have specific sexting laws. In Illinois, juveniles who engage in sexting are subject to juvenile prosecution. This means that they are subject to less harsh penalties than they would be if convicted under child pornography laws. But there are several statutes that are relevant to sexting in Illinois.
Electronic Dissemination of Indecent Visual Depictions
Minors under the age of 18 are prohibited from distributing indecent visual depictions of other minors through electronic means. “Indecent visual depictions” means lewd images or portrayals of unclothed or transparently clothed genitals, or of the breast of a female minor.
If a minor has distributed such images, he or she may be subject to a petition for adjudication and adjudged a minor in need of supervision. If the minor is found to be in need of supervision, the court may order:
- Counseling, to address the problems that led to the need for supervision; or
- Community service.
The minor can also still be prosecuted for public indecency, child pornography, disorderly conduct, or any other relevant offense.
Distributing Harmful Material to a Minor
A more serious offense, that does not apply only to minors, is distributing harmful material to a minor. Anyone who distributes sexually explicit pictures or video to someone under 18 can be charged with this offense. Distributing harmful material is a Class A misdemeanor for a first offense, and a Class 4 felony for a second or subsequent offense.
There are several defenses to these charges, including:
- If the minor provided official documents, such as a driver’s license, that said that the minor was over 18;
- If the minor was accompanied by a parent or guardian, or if the defendant was the parent or guardian;
- If the minor was in a museum, school, or public library; or
- If the material was for scientific or educational purposes.
An individual faces child pornography charges if he or she depicts a child engaging in an actual or simulated sexual act. Charges may also be brought if the offender:
- Disseminates such images;
- Solicits a child to be in such images;
- Is a parent or guardian and allows the child be in such images; or
- Possesses child pornography.
Child pornography is a Class 1, 2, 3, or X felony, depending on the circumstances of the offense.
If your child has engaged in sexting in Illinois, he or she may be subject to serious charges. It is important to retain the services of an experienced attorney. Please call the dedicated Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC for a free initial consultation.