According to Indiana sexting laws, 18 is how old you must be to legally sext. Furthermore, it is illegal for adults to sext with minors below sixteen, but the age of consent is 16. Here is everything you need to know about the laws on sexting in Indiana:
- Romeo and Juliet (house bill 1368) defense only applies if the sextors are below 21.
- Sexting between a minor (below 18) and an adult is illegal in Indiana.
- Teens may have to register into the states sex offender registry if convicted of a felony.
- Habitual offenders receive a mandatory extra sentence between two to six years in prison for felony offenses.
- Indiana sexting laws do not prevent prosecutors from charging the accused with other offences including child porn.
Indiana sexting laws summary
For teens, state sexting laws explicitly state that it is illegal to create an image depicting anyone younger than 18 years old engaged in a sexual act. It is also illegal to possess obscene videos or images of a child younger than sixteen engaged in sexual conduct. Consequently, once a teen turns sixteen, it is not against the law for the teen to have sexual relations with an adult. What is unlawful is the creation of child pornography, possession, and distribution. A photo depicting a minor below 18 constitutes child porn. Child pornography is illegal both on the state and federal levels.
Depending on the facts presented, prosecutors may choose felony or misdemeanor charges. Felony sexting in Indiana happens when an individual sends or receives photos depicting a minor engaged in a sexual act or the exchange of obscene images.
Do not forget that Indiana sexting laws do not prevent prosecutors from pursuing other charges including dissemination of harmful material to minors, child exploitation, solicitation, or child pornography.
Indiana Code Title 35 35-45-4-6 Indecent Display by a youth states that anyone who by means of social media, telephone or any other communication device/device capable of receiving photos or videos, intentionally produces, disseminates, or possesses a drawing, picture, motion picture, digitized image or other media, quote, “ that depicts or describes sexual conduct by a child at least twelve (12) years of age who the person knows is less than sixteen (16) years of age or who appears to be less than sixteen (16) years of age, and that lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value; commits indecent display by a youth, a Class A misdemeanor.”
A class A misdemeanor in Indiana -is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $5000 fine.
What to remember:
- Under Indiana code title 35-45-4-6 creation and possession of an obscene image by a minor is a class A misdemeanor.
- If the depicted minor is younger than twelve, the sexting was nonconsensual, or if the minors involved are more than five years apart, the charges escalate into a felony.
- “Young adult relationship” is a defense that only applies if the persons receiving and sending sexually explicit images are close in age. It does not apply to individuals above 22.
- If the receiver shares a sexually explicit image depicting a child with someone outside the relationship or posts it on the internet, the crime becomes possession and distribution of child pornography.
Indiana child pornography laws
Indiana Code Title 35 Criminal Law and Procedure prohibits child exploitation, sale, and distribution of media depicting a child, dissemination of material that is harmful to minors, and the showing, managing, or presenting of obscene material to minors. The law also prohibits sexual conduct in the presence of a minor.
Indiana punishes the mentioned crimes in levels, that is, level 1 to level 6 felonies. A person who knowingly possesses an obscene image depicting a minor younger than eighteen is guilty of a class 6 felony. A class 6 felony is punishable by a $10000 fine and anywhere from six months to two and a half years in prison. Also, disseminating harmful material to a minor, for example, an adult sending nudes to a minor is a class 6 felony.
|Possessing a picture or film depicting a child that lacks educational, literary, or scientific value. (possession of child porn)Dissemination of harmful material to a minor. (sending sexually explicit photos or videos to a minor)
|Class 6 felony
|6 to 2.5 years imprisonment and a fine up to $10,000
|Knowingly creating, sending, presenting, or showing photos or videos showing a minor’s private area. (child exploitation)Child engaging in bestiality
|Class 5 felony
|$10,000 fine and 1 to 6 years imprisonment.
|Sexually explicit videos or pictures depicting a child below 12 years, a mentally deficient or disable minor, bestiality, an injured child, a child engaged in a sexual act.
|Class 4 felony
|$10,000 fine and between two to 12 years in prison.
It is worth noting that prior convictions may escalate felony charges, and each photo or video may constitute a separate offense depending on the facts presented. Also, if a “Habitual Offender” commits a level 5 or level 6 felony, the law requires the judge to sentence the accused to an additional fixed term of up to 6 years.
Indiana sexting laws and child exploitation
As mentioned, creating, sharing, and offering to share pictures or images depicting a child engaging in sexual conduct is a level 5 felony. However, if there is the use of force, the minor in the picture is below twelve, or if there are aggravating factors (harm, committing sexual acts in front of a child, and so on), the charges escalate to a class 4 felony.
Can a teen be tried as an adult in Indiana?
Yes. The prosecution may seek to transfer the minor offender to adult court if the accused has a previous record and is accused of committing a felony. Once transferred to adult court, the minor will have to register in the state’s sex offender registry and serve adult punishment.
Child pornography and child exploitation are illegal under state and federal law. The circumstances or facts of the case will determine if the accused faces both state and federal law.
On the Federal level, the age of consent is 18, because of that -crossing state lines to have sexual relations with an individual below 18 is a federal offense. Soliciting a minor for sex is also a crime on the federal and state level.
That means using the internet, mail, or any other communication device or medium to solicit sex from a minor across a state line or internationally is a federal offense. If convicted of soliciting a minor for sex, or if the offender crosses state lines to have relations with a minor, the punishment is anywhere from ten to thirty years imprisonment and a $250000 fine.
What to remember
- Federal law prohibits the creation and distribution of child porn.
- It is a federal offense to solicit sex from a minor or cross a state line to have relations with a minor.
- Solicitation of a minor via an electronic device is a crime even if the offender does not meet the child.
- Law enforcement may stage online sting operations to lure potential sex offenders.
- Talking to a minor online or offline is not illegal, what is illegal is asking the child to perform a sexual act or create sexual content.
Indiana Romeo and Juliet law and sexting
People accused of child exploitation, possession of child pornography, or sexual misconduct with a child may use Indiana’s Romeo and Juliet Code as a defense. The defense only works if the person depicted in the photo consented, the sender and receiver were in a relationship, and the accused is not more than four years older than the person in the image.
What to remember:
- The defense does not apply if the receiver or possessor is above 21 years of age.
- Indiana’s Romeo and Juliet law does not apply if the minor depicted is below 13.
- If the accused shares the image with anyone outside the relationship -say social media or friends- the defense does not apply.
- If there are aggravating factors such as threats or blackmail leading to the sending of the image, the defense does not apply.
Indiana sexting laws and harassing phone calls/sexts
Indiana code title 35 35-45-2-2 defines obscene messages as, quote “A message is obscene if: the average person, applying contemporary community standards, finds that the dominant theme of the message, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest in sex; (2) the message refers to sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and (3) the message, taken as a whole, lacks serious artistic, literary, political, or scientific value.”
That means unsolicited sexts constitute harassment in Indiana. Harassment is a class B felony in Indiana -punishable by up to 180 days in jail and or a $1000 fine. The offense may escalate into stalking -which is a class D felony.
Victims of harassing phone calls or unsolicited sexts may take civil action against the offender. We recommend consulting with an experienced attorney to figure out what charges to file.
Navigating these laws on your own is difficult, we recommend consulting with an experienced local defense attorney today.
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