Published in Criminal Law on May 1, 2022.
“Sexting” refers to the use of electronic communications technology, such as cell phones and social media sites, to send or receive nude or sexually suggestive images, or videos through text messaging, social media, chat boards, or email. Indiana sexting laws place a particular focus on sexting as it relates to minors (under 18 or sometimes under 16). In general, Indiana law prohibits teen sexting.
Sexting Between Adults
The consensual distribution of sexually explicit content is generally legal between adults, so long as both parties are over the age of 18. Nevertheless, the following circumstances could result in criminal charges:
- Distributing sexually explicit material depicting minors is the most commonly prosecuted class of adult-to-adult sexting crimes.
- Distributing sexually explicit content to a mentally incapacitated adult can carry the same consequences as sexting with a minor. Soliciting sex with a mentally incapacitated adult can also carry criminal penalties.
Non-consensual sexting between adults can be criminal if it constitutes stalking or terroristic threatening. Additionally, soliciting sex from a minor under the age of 16 is a crime. Such behavior, however, arguably does not fit within the popular definition of “sexting.”
Sexting Between Minors
Sexting between minors (under the age of 18) is prohibited under Indiana law…even when it’s consensual. Indiana handles consensual sexting between minors who are close in age, and in an ongoing personal relationship as a misdemeanor offense. Non-consensual sexting between minors, sexting by an adult (even 18 and 19-year-olds) to a minor, or sexting images depicting a minor under 12 years of age can lead to felony charges.
Depending on the particular circumstances, a conviction for these acts could even lead to registration as a sex offender.
Defense against Felony charges
Indiana law does provide a defense (often referred to as the “Romeo and Juliet” defense) to certain felony sexting charges for consensual sexting between a young adult and a minor if all the following are true.
- The crime was committed by someone 21 or younger; the person receiving or depicted in the image consented;
- The people involved are close in age and in an ongoing personal relationship;
- The image was produced, stored, or shared using a smartphone, smart device, cellphone, or social networking site/app;
- The image is not distributed beyond the sender, receiver, and person depicted in the image, or in violation of a protective order.
This defense does not apply to a person who forwards sexually explicit material to a third party.
Sexting Between Adults and Minors
For an adult over the age of 21 sexting a minor is a crime. In particular, any conduct that is a crime if it occurs between minors is also a crime if it occurs between an adult and a minor, including solicitation of sex. Further, consent by the minor is no defense, and there is no “Romeo and Juliet” defense.
If you or your child has been charged with violating Indiana sexting laws, now is the time for decisive action. The Indiana criminal justice system moves quickly and ruthlessly, and time is of the essence. At Eskew Law, our criminal defense team understands that the most important legal weapons we can offer our clients are knowledge and experience. We will diligently protect your freedom by critically analyzing the State’s case, and developing a strategy to ensure the best possible outcome. Contact Eskew Law to schedule a consultation.