Sexting

What’s the big deal about sexting?

Sexting is the sending of sexually explicit messages, videos or images by any electronic forum. The majority of states will charge possession of child porn for any “sexting” pictures on the phone.  Child pornography is a federal offense and can land you in serious trouble.
Sexting is a violation of your privacy.  If you choose to send someone an inappropriate picture, you are releasing it into the complete public. You cannot get the picture back, and it can be forwarded to anyone, including other boys, parents or teachers.

The Law & Sexting:

In Michigan, the act of creating, soliciting, possessing, or distributing sexually explicit photos of a minor under 18 is a felony (MCL 750.145c).   These photos can be sent between computers or cell phones ² it makes no difference. The inquiry is whether the photo depicts someone under 18C the medium and the age of the creator, requestor, sender, recipient, or possessor are irrelevant. The potential criminal penalty is significant incarceration and registration on the Sex Offender Registry.
There are other crimes that can be committed with computers and cell phones. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Accosting, enticing, or soliciting child under 16 for an immoral purpose (sexual intercourse, act of gross indecency, or delinquency) MCL 750.145a
  • Installing a device to observe, photograph, or eavesdrop on a person where the person has an expectation of privacy (exception for home security systems). MCL 750.539d
  • Using a phone to threaten physical harm or damage to a person or property in the course of a conversation or message. MCL 750.540e

Some Michigan prosecutors are prosecuting teenagers in Michigan for sexting under the child pornography laws.  In order for the Michigan child pornography laws to apply to sexting, the sexual image must be of someone under the age of 18.  Pictures are a semi or fully nude erotic photo and any photo where there are any of the genitals showing are considered child pornography.

Sexting Charges and Punishments

The teen who takes a sexual photo of himself or herself can be charged with manufacturing of child pornography, which is a felony that carries up to a 20 year prison sentence or a fine of up to $100,000, or both. The person sending the image is not the only one that is in danger of criminal charges. Let’s say the teen sends that image to her boyfriend. If the boyfriend keeps that image on his phone or computer he can be charged with possession of child pornography, regardless of whether or not he is younger than 18 years old. That is a felony and he could go to prison for up to 4 years or pay a fine of up to $10,000, or both. If the boyfriend sends the image on to his friends, which frequently happens, the boyfriend could now also be guilty of distributing child porn, which is a felony that carries up to 7 years in prison, a fine of up to $50,000, or both. The friends could now be charged with possession of child pornography if they keep the image. You can see how this snowball effect could result in many people being charged with a crime from just one image.

Michigan law criminalizes the use of a computer in the commission of a crime. This can carry maximum periods of incarceration from 1 to 20 years.  Michigan law defines a computer as:

any connected, directly interoperable or interactive device, equipment, or facility that uses a computer program or other instructions to perform specific operations including logical, arithmetic, or memory functions with or on computer data or a computer program and that can store, retrieve, alter, or communicate the results of the operations to a person, computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network. MCL 750.145(d)(9).

Many cell phones that parents provide their children today would qualify under this definition.

Teens who engage in sexting could have their lives changed forever. Not only because of the prison sentences and fines that come along with a conviction for sexting, but also because of the requirement that they register as sex offenders on Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry. The Sex Offender Registry is a public list of people who have been convicted of sex crimes. Being on this list can make it very hard for anyone to live a normal life. They are subject to ridicule from the public and they must maintain constant contact with the Michigan government. They cannot live, work, or loiter near a school, and it is very hard for them to find good jobs once potential employers find out they are on the Sex Offender Registry.

Recent studies show that about 20% of teens have engaged in sexting. This statistic is not surprising when you consider the fact that most teens now own cell phones and therefore always have access to their own cell phone camera. It is up to parents, teachers, and law enforcement to talk to kids about the dangers of sexting. Of course, those dangers can be social, as well as legal. These images often spread like wildfire around the school, especially because texting is primarily how today’s youth communicate with one another. As you can imagine, it is difficult for a teen to go to school each day, knowing that he or she will be teased by his or her peers. There are documented cases of teens committing suicide after images of their nude bodies were sexted throughout their school.

School officials are required by law to report sexting incidents to Michigan law enforcement. Naturally, any adult who retains an illegal image on their own phones or computers can be charged with possession of child pornography. For now, it is up to the local prosecutor how aggressively they want to pursue sexting cases.

20-20-7-4
           Creation of Sexually Explicit Material – 20 Year Felony
           Solicitation of Sexually Explicit Material – 20 Year Felony
           Distribution of Sexually Explicit Material – 7 Year Felony
           Possession of Sexually Explicit Material – 4 Year Felony

For more information please check the Oakland county link:
http://www.oakland.k12.mi.us/LinkClick.aspx?link=SafeSchools%2FSexting+flyer+April+2010.pdf&tabid=656&mid=3640

 

Law and Age of Consent

What is the 2013 Age of Consent in Michigan?

The Michigan legal Age of Consent for sexual contact is 16 years old. There are a total of thirty one states that have set their age of consent at 16, the lowest age of consent in any state.

The MI age of consent is raised to 18 if the actor is in a position of power, such as a teacher or coach.

Michigan has no Close-in-age Exemption

There are no set close-in-age exemptions or "Romeo and Juliet laws" to Michigan's age of consent. This means that anyone who engages in sexual activity with someone under the age of consent in Michigan is liable for prosecution, including people only a few years older than their sexual partner and even two individuals who are both under the age of consent.

What is the Age of Consent?

The Age of Consent is the age at which a person is deemed by Michigan law to be capable of consenting to, and engaging in, sexual acts. Anyone who engages in sexual activity of any type with a partner under the applicable Age of Consent is breaking the law and can be charged with crimes ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony (statutory rape) depending on the jurisdiction in which they are prosecuted. Michigan's specific laws on the Age of Consent can be found above.

What happens if I violate the Michigan Age of Consent?

If you engage in sexual activity with a minor who is under the Michigan Age of Consent of 16, you can be prosecuted under Michigan sexual abuse laws and charged with crimes ranging from sexual assault to first degree rape, regardless of whether or not the sexual acts were consensual. Depending on the charges, conviction can carry penalties ranging from one to fifty years in prison and registration as a sex offender.

What happens if I travel to a state where the Age of Consent is lower?

In most states, the travel or transportation of a minor over state lines with the intention of engaging in sexual activity is in itself a severe misdemeanor or felony. As a result, it is generally not possible to evade a state's age of consent rules by travelling to a different state.