Texas Criminalizes Sending Unsolicited Nudes

The rapid growth of smartphones and digital communication platforms has made it easier than ever to share images and messages with others. While this technology has many benefits, it has also given rise to new forms of misconduct, including the sending of unsolicited nude or sexual images or videos.

In Texas, sending unsolicited nudes can have serious legal consequences, including criminal charges and potential registration as a sex offender. Understanding the law and its implications is crucial for individuals to avoid inadvertently breaking the law and facing these severe consequences.

Sending Unsolicited Nudes Content

In 2019, the state made it illegal to send nude photos to someone without their consent, following several well-known cases. The law came into effect on September 1, 2019, and is part of the Penal Code under Title 5.

Texas law defines the offense of Unlawful Electronic Transmission of Sexually Explicit Visual Material in Penal Code Section §21.19 as:

(a) In this section, “intimate parts,” “sexual conduct,” and “visual material” have the meanings assigned by Section 21.16.

(b) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly transmits by electronic means visual material that:

(1) depicts:

(A) any person engaging in sexual conduct or with the person’s intimate parts exposed; or

(B) covered genitals of a male person that are in a discernibly turgid state; and

(2) is not sent at the request of or with the express consent of the recipient.

Illegal Sexting Crimes

Child Pornography

Adults sharing or receiving sexually explicit photos of a minor under 18 years old can lead to charges for possessing or sending child pornography and can be prosecuted under Penal Code Section 43.26.

Meanwhile, minors who send or receive sexually explicit images to or from other minors can also face charges, but it will be a Class C misdemeanor instead of a felony.

Child Enticement

Sending a nude or sexual photo of oneself to a child can result in criminal charges. In Texas, sharing a nude image with someone under 18 can be prosecuted under Penal Code 43.24, which prohibits the sale, distribution, or display of harmful material to a minor.

Sexting Harassment

An adult who shares unsolicited nude photos of another adult without permission or who sends unwanted sexts could face harassment charges. This includes any visual material showing:

    • Someone involved in sexual conduct
    • Their private parts are exposed.
    • Male genitals in an aroused state.

They could also be sued in civil court for causing emotional distress or other harm.

Sexting Trends: From Teenagers to Adults

Many people think sexting mostly involves teenagers. According to the Cyberbullying Org, about 25% of teens have received sexually suggestive messages through text, email, or instant messaging, and 15% have sent semi-nude or nude videos or photos of themselves.

However, other studies show that adults and people in general also engage in sexting. Research presented at a recent American Psychological Association convention found that over 80% of people surveyed online admitted to sexting in the past year.

In September 2019, a new law was passed making it a crime to send unsolicited nude or partially nude photos of oneself. This law originated with House Bill 2789. Morgan Meyer, the legislator behind the law, aimed to address a form of sexual harassment that was not previously covered by existing laws. He argues that the law fills a gap in public indecency laws and essentially acts as online indecent exposure.

The law has raised some discussion, though. First Amendment supporters and defense lawyers contend that there may be some issues with the legislation.

Enforcement Limitations

As technology laws evolve, there are concerns that enforcing new laws could be challenging.

  • In criminal cases, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. If accused, a person could argue that someone else sent the image. To establish credible evidence in court, computer forensics would likely be necessary.
  • Law enforcement faces resource constraints. The widespread nature of the issue could lead to an overwhelming number of complaints. Additionally, distinguishing between legitimate crimes and revenge-driven complaints could be challenging.
  • The law lacks clarity regarding the specific types of material it covers. For example, a medical photo or artwork depicting nudity could potentially be included under the law.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

Texas criminalizes sending unsolicited nudes with laws that aim to protect individuals from unwanted and potentially harmful content. The legal landscape surrounding sexting is complex, with various statutes covering different aspects of the offense. Understanding the law and its implications is crucial for individuals to avoid legal trouble and protect their rights.

Facing a sexting-related crime can be daunting, and it highlights the importance of seeking legal help. A criminal defense lawyer can provide guidance and support, ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the legal process. Their expertise can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case, potentially helping you avoid serious consequences and navigate the legal system more effectively.