News coverage of minors and young adults sending each other sexually-explicit messages or photographs via smartphone (or sexting) has increased in recent years. Juveniles nationwide have been investigated and charged under adult child pornography laws.

So is sexting a permanent cultural change and merely a common part of today’s romantic relationships? From a legal perspective, should juveniles be prosecuted for sexting?

Sexting: Harmless or a Crime?

Some see sexting as a deviancy that demands use of existing criminal statutes to insure the public’s safety. Others believe minors should be dealt with differently and not within the adult criminal justice system.

Not only have legislators and prosecutors weighed in, but so have sociologists, psychologists and the media.

Sexting is a complicated issue. For example, the Virginia State Crime Commission published a study in 2014 which concluded that sexting has the possibility of causing harm and thus the criminal statutes should remain a criminal act.

Sexting and Criminal Statutes

The majority of states' child pornography laws don't differentiate between adults and minors. This can be a vital distinction in a juvenile's case.

Most juveniles simply don't realize sexting can be considered a crime resulting in potential jail time. Criminal exposure for such a widespread activity can create serious consequences for many teenagers.

If you or anyone you know has been charged with a crime for sexting, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney to best protect your rights.