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Sexting, per se, is not a crime in Minnesota. Minnesota has not enacted any legislation specifically prohibiting sexting among minors. However, Minnesota law enforcement investigators and prosecutors rely on Minnesota’s existing laws to prosecute and convict people who engaged in sexting with a child or sexting involving a child.

The consequences of a conviction for charges related to sexting and minors are incredibly severe. Not only are long prison sentences a genuine possibility, but the person convicted of these charges may also need to register as a predatory offender.

If you find yourself under investigation or charged with crimes involving sexting and minors, or if your child could be in trouble for these crimes, contact Arechigo & Stokka, P.A., immediately. We will put together an aggressive defense strategy designed to eliminate or minimize the disruption sexting charges may have on your life. 

Sexting Laws 

The term sexting became part of our vernacular several years ago. Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit or suggestive text messages to another by any electronic means. Sexting is a risky behavior, even if it is just two consenting adults flirting with each other. Electronic messages containing sexually explicit content do not simply go away.

They could be used later to embarrass, harass, or annoy one of the participants if the relationship sours. A person could face legal consequences for sexting if the person in possession of a graphic photo or video disseminates it without consent for public display. This is known as revenge porn. 

The State of Minnesota recognizes the vulnerability of children. The state restricts access to sexually explicit material to people over 17 in an attempt to protect children (Minn. Stat. §§ 617.291, (2021). Moreover, a teenager could face criminal charges by sexting with another teenager or an adult, even if the adult consents. 

When Is Sexting Child Pornography in Minnesota?

It is illegal for children to send nude photos to each other or an adult. Minnesota law prohibits explicitly depicting a child in the nude or while performing a sex act. Also, Minnesota law outlaws possessing or disseminating pornographic materials showing children.

Minnesota’s child pornography laws are strict. A teenager who possesses a nude photo, even of their significant other, if one of the participants is a minor, could face child pornography charges in Minnesota. 

Sexting and Child Endangerment

As a parent or guardian, you could get in trouble for sexting involving your children if you do not immediately stop the behavior. Under Minnesota law, a parent or guardian faces significant imprisonment if their child suffers physically, emotionally, or psychologically and the parent or guardian permitted the sexual abuse.

Learning about your child engaging in sexting and failing to stop it could result in criminal charges for child endangerment. 

Disseminating Harmful Matter to Juveniles

Displaying explicit photos to a child and soliciting children to engage in sexual conduct like sexting are crimes in Minnesota. Using a computer or other electronic device to solicit children to send nude pictures or pornographic videos, including sexualized language, is a felony and can be prosecuted for engaging in electronic solicitation of a minor.

Practically speaking, a minor who describes sexual activity to another minor via text commits a felony, even if committing the act itself might not be a crime due to Minnesota’s “Romeo and Juliet” law.

Can You Go To Jail For Sexting?

Punishments for sexting depend on the severity of the offense. For example, possession of child pornography is a felony punishable by incarceration for up to ten years. Dissemination of child pornography is also a felony, and the person so convicted faces up to 15 years of imprisonment.

Distributing sexual material to a minor is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. Disseminating revenge porn is a gross misdemeanor but could be a felony warranting three years in jail if certain aggravating factors apply. 

Registering as a Sex Offender for Sexting

Minnesota requires people convicted of certain crimes to register with the state’s predatory offender registry. A person convicted of possessing child pornography, soliciting a minor to engage in sexual conduct, or using a minor in a pornographic work may have to register as a predatory offender. 

Possible Defenses to Sexting

The sexting laws for adults differ from the laws applying to children involved in sexting. Consent is not a defense to sexting unless both parties are adults. Consent might be a defense to distributing private sexual images as well.

Minnesota law does not recognize accidental viewing or possession of a pornographic image as a defense. However, a skilled criminal defense lawyer could argue that the person who viewed the image unintentionally should not be convicted of the crime. The First Amendment may also give rise to defenses in certain cases.

Entrapment could be a valid defense to crimes like dissemination or creation, but not possession of child pornography. 

Law enforcement investigators will examine phones, computers, tablets, and other electronic devices and account information to obtain evidence. The investigators must first obtain a search warrant or the individual’s consent to examine any electronic device suspected of containing contraband.

Filing motions to suppress evidence found on electronic devices could be a successful line of defense. If the judge rules the police did not have probable cause to get a search warrant or your consent was ineffective, the judge must exclude all evidence illegally seized from the trial. 

Every case is different. Talking with a seasoned Minnesota criminal defense attorney about your specific case is the best way to understand which defenses might apply in your particular situation.

Hire a Top Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me in St. Paul

The Minnesota criminal defense lawyers with Arechigo & Stokka, P.A., are available to discuss your case with you as soon as possible. Waiting to see what happens could be devastating.

Call 651-222-6603 today to speak with an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney about whether you could face charges for sexting.

Recent Case Result

Free Speech Argued at Minnesota Supreme Court

Criminal Defense Attorney John Arechigo continued to advocate for dismissal of charges at the Minnesota Supreme Court

THE FACTS: Client was previously convicted in district court of a criminal charge of disseminating a sexual image and was sentenced to prison.

THE DEFENSE: Attorney John Arechigo argued in district court that the law violated the First Amendment because it criminalized free speech. In other words, the law the state had used to convict client was unconstitutional because people have a right to engage in certain kinds of free speech that the government can not prosecute.

The district court denied the defense motions to dismiss the client’s charge, convicted the client, and sentenced the client to 23 months in prison. Defense lawyer John Arechigo took the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals where he won a reversal of the client’s conviction. The Court of Appeals agreed with the defense arguments that the law violated the First Amendment and could not be used to prosecute the client. The state of Minnesota then took the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The case is pending before the Supreme Court.

THE RESULT: Certain criminal charges can be defended by asserting a violation of free speech. The state cannot criminalize everything we say to one another. The state only has the power to criminalize a small subset of speech, but the state often overreaches and attempts to prosecute a person for something he or she said. We’ve seen this in charges of Threats of Violence (Terroristic Threats), Assault, and Disorderly Conduct. Motions to dismiss on First Amendment grounds can be successful in these types of cases.

Author Photo John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.

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