Illinois Finally Stops Treating Immature Teens Like Child Pornographers

On behalf of Law Office of Steven Haney posted in Child Pornagraphy on Friday, September 16, 2011

Before 2011, Illinois minors photographing themselves even semi-nude and sending the picture by email, text or other electronic medium (referred to as “sexting”) could face child pornography charges, serve jail time and be forced to register as a sex offender. Thankfully, Illinois law recently changed and sexting minors under 17 years of age will be reprimanded without lifelong and life-shattering consequences.

Under Illinois law, photographing or videotaping anyone known to be under 18 years of age, engaging in a sex act or lewd pose while unclothed or transparently clothed is producing child pornography. It does not matter if the photo or video is of oneself. Asking a minor to film him or herself is solicitation to produce child pornography. Sending or forwarding such a photo is distributing child pornography. Keeping such a photo on a cell phone or computer is possession of child pornography.

Easy to Get in Trouble

Sexting has become more prevalent with more personal and mobile technology. But the ease of sexting has increased the ease with which young people can get into serious trouble. For example, if a 16-year-old girl sends a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend at his request, and boyfriend forwards the photo to a friend who keeps it on his cell phone; all three have committed serious felony offenses.

The boyfriend has committed solicitation to produce, and distribution of, child pornography. The girlfriend produced and distributed child pornography. The friend has possessed child pornography. Before Illinois passed new legislation, all three would be treated as sex offenders and could face prison time. The irony is that had the girlfriend been 18 years old there would have been no crime.

Making Things Right

The new Illinois law finally caught up with technology and now teens under 17 who are caught sexting are only subject to a class B misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a $1,500 fine. Asking another teen to sext is a class A misdemeanor, with a possible one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. However, posting a photo online to damage someone’s reputation is a class 4 felony, punishable with one to three years in prison. There is no sex offender registration requirement.

Anyone over 17 found sexting with a minor is still subject to serious child pornography charges that could result in significant prison time and lifetime registration as a sex offender. However, the new Illinois law properly balances criminal behavior with modern youthful indiscretion and spares children the life-crushing requirement to register as a sex offender.

If your child has been charged with sexting, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your child’s situation.