From: Mr. Wall
Date: January 29, 2010
“Sexting” or the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between mobile phones, presents some significant legal issues for those individuals who engage in the practice. The school held an assembly for students earlier this school year. During that assembly, Karen Gale-FBI Vicitm Specialist, discussed the dangers of sexting and answered questions for students. While I believe some students were impacted by Ms. Gale’s message, I feel a reminder of the serious consequences a student could face are in order. The information that follows is from an article by Matt Carver, Director of Legal Services for School Administrators of Iowa. His information came directly from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
•For those students who think it is cute and harmless to send nude photos of minors (those under the age of 18) or to minors, they need to know that such activity is a likely a criminal act under Chapter 728 of the Iowa Code. For instance, if anyone, to include another minor, persuades, entices, or even attempts to persuade a minor to engage in a “prohibited sexual act” or simulate a “prohibited sexual act” for the purpose of taking a photo or video of such an act, that individual may be found guilty of committing a Class “C” felony and fined up to $50,000 for each offense. Chapter 728 defines “prohibited sexual act” as, among other things: “nudity of a minor for the purpose of arousing or satisfying the sexual desires of a person who may view a depiction of the nude minor.”
•So, what about students who merely possess a nude photo of a minor on their cell phone or computer (including a nude photo of him/herself)? Under Iowa Code §728.12, individuals who merelypossess a nude photo of a minor may be found guilty of committing an aggravated misdemeanor for a first offense and a class “D” felony for a second or subsequent offense.
In addition to the above Iowa specific crimes on their rap sheet, students sexting photos of minors may also violate Iowa Code §728.15 if they knowingly disseminate “obscene material” by the use of their cell phone. “Obscene material” includes, but is not limited to, any material depicting or describing genitals, sex acts, masturbation, and other such things that community standards would find unsuitable for minors. “Describing” is underlined because there are times when students send inappropriate sexual texts to other minor students without a photo or video. Those students, along with others who violate Iowa Code §728.15, may be found guilty of committing an aggravated misdemeanor for a first offense and a class “D” felony for a second or subsequent offense.
Here are the potential Iowa prison sentences for the above-described crimes:
class “C” felony – maximum prison term not to exceed 10 years; fine of at least $1,000 but not more than $10,000;
class “D” felony – maximum prison term not to exceed 5 years; fine of at least $750 but not more than $7,500;
aggravated misdemeanor – maximum prison term not to exceed 2 years; mandatory fine of at least $500 but not more than $5,000.
Also keep in mind that individuals who are convicted of any of the above referenced crimes under Iowa Code Chapter 728 may be required to register as a sex offender under Iowa Code Chapter 692A.
The information above just describes Iowa crimes. Individuals would also be subject to federal jurisdiction and also could face federal charges and prison sentences.
Needless to say, sexting is not a harmless activity that teenagers engage in. The consequences can be serious and impact them for the rest of their lives. Students should give strong consideration to doing the following:
1. DO NOT engage in the act of sexting. Remember, that includes both images and written messages.
2. If you receive an image or message as described above you should delete it immediately. Keeping it, or worse yet, forwarding it on to others opens up the possibility of state and federal charges against you. If you or your parents/guardians are concerned about someone sending you inappropriate material against your wishes you may want to report the incident to law enforcement before deleting the message.
3. It would be best for students to delete all obscene or inappropriate materials off of their cell phones just to make sure they are not in possession of prohibited or illegal content.
I hope that by sharing this information with students and parents/guardians everybody can be informed and make good choices. I know students are extremely protective of their cell phone content but a proactive parent/guardian would be wise to have a serious conversation about this topic with their child and make sure they aren’t using their cell phones for this kind of activity.