How Your Teen Could Be Punished for Teen Sexting in Virginia

Distraught Teen Looking at Her Cell PhoneTeen sexting is a serious crime charged under Virginia’s child pornography laws. Your child could commit this offense when doing something privately without even realizing that they are violating the law. Here’s what you need to know about what teen sexting is and the penalties your child could face if they are convicted.

What Is Teen Sexting?

Teen sexting involves sending explicit sexual images, pictures, videos, or messages over the internet. This crime falls under Virginia’s child pornography laws. Under Virginia Code §18.2-374.1:1, it is illegal to create, possess, or distribute sexually explicit visual materials of a minor who is under 18 years old. A teenager could be charged with this crime if they take a sexually explicit photo of themselves or another teen and text or post the image on social media sites.

What Are the Penalties for Teen Texting?

Unfortunately, minors will be charged with the same felony offense that an adult would be for teen sexting. However, the crime will be initially treated as a juvenile offense and handled in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court (JD&R). The penalties will depend on whether a teenager is convicted of possession, creation, or distribution of child pornography. They can be sentenced as follows:

  • Possession. Possession of child pornography is a Class 6 felony punishable by one to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
  • Creation. The penalties for the creation of child pornography will depend on the age of the child portrayed and the offender's age. A teen could be sentenced to 1 to 40 years in prison.
  • Distribution. Distribution of child pornography is an unclassified felony in Virginia, whether the sexually explicit materials are sold or given away. The sentence can include five to 20 years in prison.

If your child is convicted of this offense, they would have a permanent criminal record that could affect their ability to obtain employment, education, housing, and more throughout their adult life. They may also have to register as a sex offender on Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry.

Was your teenager charged with sexting in Virginia Beach or Norfolk? Our experienced criminal defense lawyers can build a strong defense that could result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Call our Norfolk office to schedule a free initial consultation to learn more about how we can help your family.


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