Is It Illegal for an 18-Year-Old to Sext with a 17-Year-Old?

Yes, it is illegal for an 18-year-old to sext with a 17-year-old in Washington State. It does not matter if the 17-year-old participates willingly in the sexting because a 17-year-old is a minor. An 18-year-old is an adult. 

Sexting with a minor can be a felony that can carry a prison sentence of 10 years and the requirement of registering as a sexual offender. With these severe potential consequences, you will want to talk with a Seattle sex crimes defense attorney as soon as possible.

An Overview of Sexting

Sexting is the act of texting sexually explicit messages or images. When sexting happens between two consenting adults, the law is unlikely to get involved unless the images are of minors. 

Teens can get caught in a life-ruining situation through sexting. Let’s say that a boyfriend and girlfriend send sexually explicit text messages and photos to each other, and they are 17 and 18 years old. A parent of the 17-year-old discovers the messages and images on the child’s cell phone and goes to the police. The 18-year-old could get arrested, face criminal charges, and possibly spend years in prison. 

Revenge Sexting

After a nasty break-up, some people send intimate photos of their former romantic partner to other people without the ex’s consent. This conduct can be illegal. When this happens among teens who were underage at the time of the photographs, the other party could get charged with possession of child pornography. Even without the element of revenge, having sexually explicit photos of someone under the age of 18 on your cell phone can be considered possession of child pornography.

Federal Law That Can Make Sexting Illegal

The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of 2003 could get triggered if one of the parties downloads sexting images of a minor to a computer or sends the photos through an email that gets opened on a computer. While the legislation focuses on prosecuting child pornography cases, federal law enforcement officials tend to leave the prosecution of sexting between minors to the states.

Sexual Offender Registries and Sexting

When an adult gets convicted of a sexual offense, the judge can require the adult to register as a sexual offender. Registering as a sexual offender can cause the defendant public humiliation and lead to difficulty in finding and keeping a place to live. Many people report being harassed until they moved away after people in the neighborhood discovered that the person was on the sexual offender registry.

In some situations, a minor might have to register as a sexual offender, although that outcome happens less frequently than for adults. Whether the defendant is an adult or a minor, having to register as a sexual offender can cost a person his career, friends, family, and future prospects.

When an 18-year-old gets a sexual offense conviction, the consequences could ruin his life. The best outcome is to avoid a conviction by getting the charges dismissed, mounting a strong defense to win at trial, or negotiating a deal with the prosecutor.

With so much at stake, you should not try to handle this situation as a DIY project. Working with a Seattle criminal defense attorney from the beginning, your rights can get protected. Get in touch with our office today.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.