We are firmly in the age of the smartphone. These devices are incredibly handy, keeping our entire lives in our pockets or purses. Yet for all of the convenience of having a mini camera, computer and more on us at all times, there are also dangers associated with the use of smartphones.
One of those risks is the potential to get in serious trouble for doing something that may seem innocent — especially in you are young and in love (or in lust). Sending explicit pictures — commonly known as sexting — might not seem like a big deal. But in Kentucky, it can actually be charged as a felony offense if the people involved are minors. In addition, anyone caught sexting underage could be required to register as a sex offender — for life!
Given these serious repercussions, it is vital to understand what exactly the laws on sexting are in Kentucky — and how you can avoid being charged with a criminal offense.
What Is the Law on Teen Sexting in Kentucky?
In Kentucky, sending explicit pictures of minors falls under the definition of child pornography. This includes any depiction of genitals, pubic area, buttock or female breast, actual or simulated sex acts, or physical contact with genitals. This definition covers a wide range of potential pictures — even photographs that could potentially be sent as a joke, such as a snap of one person “mooning” the other.
Under Kentucky law, there is no distinction between adults producing and distributing child pornography and minors doing the same. This is the part of Kentucky law that several lawmakers have unsuccessfully tried to change: the fact that a teen who sends a picture of himself to a girlfriend would potentially face the same criminal charge as an adult who exploits a child and publishes it online.
Kentucky Revised Statute 531.320 prohibits the production of child pornography. This includes producing, directing any performance that includes sexual conduct by a minor while knowing the character and content of the material. If the minor is less than 18 years old, producing child pornography is a Class C felony. If the minor is under 16 years old, it is a Class B felony. If the minor incurs physical injury, it is a Class A felony.
Kentucky Revised Statute 531.340 prohibits distributing child pornography. This includes sending or bringing the material into Kentucky for sale or distribution while having knowledge of the materials content, or exhibiting for profit, distributing, offering to distribute, has in his/her possession with intent to distribute, or offering to distribute any material portraying a sexual performance by a minor. The first offense for distributing child pornography is a Class D felony. Each subsequent offense is a Class C felony.
There is no exception under the law for two minors who consensually send pictures or videos to each other. There is also no specific category of offense for minors who share pictures or videos of others without their permission. As a Lexington criminal defense attorney can explain, this makes it possible for minors to be charged with a serious felony offense — even if the only thing that they did was send a picture of himself/herself to their boyfriend or girlfriend.
Penalties for Underage Sexting
In Kentucky, felony offenses carry serious potential consequences. First, any minor convicted of a sexting offense will be required to register as a sex offender for life. This will have an impact on the rest of his or her life, as it will affect where he or she can live, where he or she can work, and even if he or she can do things like volunteer at their kids’ school in the future.
Class A felonies are the most serious crime after Capital Offenses in Kentucky. They are punishable by between 20 and 50 years in prison. A Class B felony is punishable by between 10 and 20 years in prison.
A Class C felony can result in a prison term of between 5 and 10 years. A Class D felony is punishable by between 1 and 5 years in prison.
The possibility of felony charges is not unheard of in Kentucky. In 2017, 6 teenagers were charged in Grant County after they circulated more than 140 naked pictures of other students. The teens involved were all in middle school. The youngest charged was just 13 years old.
Work with a Lexington Criminal Defense Attorney
While it may seem like everyone is doing it, sexting has the potential to lead to serious criminal charges in Kentucky. Although lawmakers have attempted to change the law, as it currently stands, if you share explicit photographs or videos of a minor (even yourself!), you could potentially be charged with a felony.
At Baldani Law, we aggressively defend our clients against a range of Kentucky criminal charges, including underage sexting offenses. Our experienced team of Lexington criminal defense attorneys stands ready to protect your rights. We know what is at stake in cases involving sex offenses — and will fight for you. You will have peace of mind knowing that we will work hard to defend you.
If you have been charged with a Kentucky criminal offense, including one related to teen sexting, we can help. Contact us today by phone at 859-259-0727 or online to schedule a consultation with a Lexington criminal defense attorney.