There are no sexting laws in Massachusetts. Because of that -teens accused of sexting or rather -creating, possessing, or transmitting sexually explicit media may face felony child pornography charges. Below is why.
- Massachusetts law allows sexting between consenting adults.
- Child pornography, solicitation, and related charges apply if there is exchange of content depicting a minor engaged in a sexual act.
- Teens who commit felony offences may face trial in adult court.
- Lawmakers in the state have proposed sexting laws to cushion teens from felony charges (we will update you when the law changes).
Massachusetts sexting laws summary
What makes sexting illegal in Massachusetts?
Sexting or the act of exchanging sexually explicit images or texts is illegal if there is a minor involved or if the activity is not consensual. Under state law, minors do not have the authority to consent to the creation of media or material of a sexual nature. Consequently, a minor taking a nude selfie may constitute the creation of child pornography/material -that is- harmful to minors. Furthermore, soliciting a minor to engage in sexual conduct with the intent to create sexually explicit images is both a federal and state crime.
It is unlawful to send any material that is harmful to minors, according to section 31 of Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L).
A photo, video, or other media is harmful to minors if it is obscene or, quote, if taken as a whole,
- Represents or describes sexual excitement, nudity, or sexual conduct, to appeal to the prurient interest of juveniles.
- Lacks serious artistic, political, literary, or scientific value.
- The image or video is patently contrary to the prevailing standards of adults in the county where the violation was committed.
Upon conviction, anyone found guilty of possessing or disseminating material that is harmful to minors may serve up to 2.5 years in prison and pay a fine between $1000 to $10000.
Under Massachusetts child pornography laws, minors cannot legally consent to the creation of sexually explicit photos. That means anyone who solicits images, selfies, or other media depicting a child under 18 engaged in a sexual act is guilty of coercion, enticing, soliciting, possession, and or distribution of child pornography if he or she shares or displays the image to a third party.
Posing a Child in a State of Nudity
Section C of MGL 272 29A says that a minor is incapable of consenting to pose or being exhibited in a state of nudity. A person violates this law if he or she hires, coerces, solicits, employs, procures, encourages, or permits a minor to pose or be exhibited. The law works under the assumption that the accused, knew or should have known that the victim was under 18.
A consenting teen is not a defense, furthermore, the teen who took or created the photo is also guilty of child porn possession and distribution. It is also a crime to knowingly possess visual materials of a child in a state of nudity with intent to distribute. In short, teens in Massachusetts accused of sexting may face prosecution under:
- “Possession, dissemination of material harmful to minors.” MGLA 272 28. Violation is punishable by up to two and a half years in prison and or a maximum $10000 fine.
- “Posing or exhibiting a child in a state of nudity or sexual conduct.” MGLA 272 29A. Punishable by between ten to twenty years behind bars and a fine between $10000 and $50000
- “Dissemination of visual material of a child in a state of nudity or sexual conduct.” MGLA 29B. Punishable by a minimum of ten years and a maximum of twenty years in prison and a fine between $10000 and $50000.
- “Purchase or possession of visual material of a child depicted in a sexual conduct” MGLA 272-29c. punishable by up to 2.5 years in jail or up to 5 years in prison and or a fine between $1000 to $10000.
Note, the penalties increase for subsequent offenses and charges related to child pornography are felonies in the state.
What to remember
- Registration into the state’s sex offender registry is not mandatory for teen offenders.
- The court may order probation, counselling, issue a warning, or incarcerate teens in a juvenile facility.
- The victim’s Parents may seek remedy from the school board.
- It is unlawful to coerce, employ, entice, procure, use, encourage, or permit a minor to take or to be photographed nude or engaged in a sexual act.
- Any photo video or other media that depicts a minor below 18 in engaged a sexual act constitutes child pornography in Massachusetts.
- Anyone convicted of a felony offense must register into the states sex offender’s registry.
Massachusetts Sexting Laws and Soliciting
As mentioned, it is a federal and state offense to solicit sexual content or sexual conduct from a minor. Conspiring to and attempting to solicit sexual conduct is also a crime. On the federal level solicitation is punishable by between ten to life in prison.
On a state level, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting a child via electronic device or orally is an unlawful act punishable by up to ten years in prison and or a $10000 fine.
The Mann Act
Under the Mann Act, a person commits a felony if he transports a woman or girl across state lines with intent to commit debauchery, prostitution, or any other immoral acts. Offenders prosecuted under this act may have to pay a civil fine of up to $100000.
Remember, solicitation is a crime even if the offender is a minor. The court may order Minors charged with solicitation or attempted solicitation to pay a fine or do time in a juvenile facility depending on the severity of the offense.
We recommend consulting with a lawyer.
Massachusetts Sexting Laws and Enticement/Luring a Minor
Under Massachusetts law, MGL C. 265 S.26. C.B, enticing or luring a child to engage in sexual conduct is a felony. The punishment for the crime is mandatory registration into the state’s Sex Offender Registry and up to five years in state prison.
Note that enticement becomes a crime when the offender takes the “extra step,” for example if the accused travels to meet with the child or asks the child to meet. Then the person is guilty. The law works under the assumption that the offender knew or should have known that the person he or she was communicating with was a minor.
What to remember:
- Offenders with previous records face harsher penalties.
- Failure to register as a sex offender in Massachusetts is punishable by up to five years in state prison.
Harassment and Unsolicited Sexts
Under section 43A 265 M.G. L, any behavior conducted via an electronic device that alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes the victim constitutes harassment. “Electronic device” refers to smartphones, feature phones, or any other device that transfers images, sounds, writing, or data. The punishment for criminal harassment is up to two and a half years in prison and/or a $1000 fine.
If the accused has prior records, the punishment escalates to up to ten years in prison.
Massachusetts Revenge Porn Law
Massachusetts does not have revenge porn laws, but General Laws section 5 (b), forbids willful dissemination of another person’s sexually explicit visual images without consent. If anyone violates this statute he or she may serve up to two years in prison and pay a fine going up to $5000.
What to remember
Under section 105 M.G.L, it is unlawful to:
- Secretly record, photograph, or video anyone who has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Violation is punishable by up to two and half years in prison and a fine up to $5000.
- Disseminating unlawfully obtained visual images is punishable by up to two and a half years in prison and a fine of not more than $10000.
- If the unlawfully obtained image depicts a child, the punishment is up to ten years in prison and a fine not of more than $10000.
Navigating these laws on your own is difficult, we recommend consulting with an experienced local attorney today.
Other Massachusetts Laws