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Michigan Sexting Laws

Michigan does not have specific laws regarding sexting, instead teens and adults face prosecution under federal law, child pornography, and related statutes.

Reference

Michigan sexting laws summary

There are no laws specifically related to sexting in Michigan. Existing laws do not prohibit consenting adults from sending and receiving sexually explicit selfies, videos, texts, or films. What might put you behind bars is sending “dirty” images to a minor, or a minor sending dirty images to you. A minor in Michigan is anyone below 18, however, the age of consent is 16. What does that situation mean for sexting teens and young adults?

Find all the answers below.

In states like Michigan where there are no legislations against sexting, individuals who create, send, solicit, or disseminate sexually explicit pictures, videos, or other media depicting a minor in a state of nudity or engaged in a sexual act face prosecution under:

  • Child pornography laws
  • Solicitation of a minor
  • Harassment
  • Cyberbullying, and any other law or statute that applies to the facts presented.

In a situation where sexting happens between an adult and a teen across state or international lines, federal laws apply.

What makes sexting illegal in Michigan?

Under state law, teens, or anyone below 18 do not have the right or authority to consent to the creation of sexually explicit images, videos, or other media. Consequently, when anyone below 18 takes a sexually suggestive photo, a nude selfie, or a picture or video of his or her privates, the activity constitutes child pornography creation.  Creating child pornography is a crime, and sending that photo or image escalates the crime to possession and distribution of child pornography.

What if you send the photo to more than one person?

A person who knowingly disseminates pictures of a minor engaged in sexual conduct is guilty of felony child pornography distribution. Additionally, if the person receiving the pictures -solicited, asked for, enticed, lured, paid, or in any other way encouraged a minor to create and send sexually explicit images -the individual receiving the media is guilty of a felony or misdemeanor charge.

When does sexting become child pornography in Michigan?

Under 750.145C “Child Sexually Abusive Material/ Child Pornography,” anyone who knowingly possesses an image, visual depiction, picture, videos, film, or recording of a minor below 18 engaged in a sexual act or conduct is guilty of a criminal offense. The charges teen and adult offenders may face include possession, distribution, and production of child pornography. These charges should not be taken lightly -because they are all felonies in Michigan.

 Offenses that might warrant federal prosecution include Aggravated Solicitation of a Minor Across State Lines, possessing photos or images of a child younger than 16, and soliciting a minor to cross state or international borders to engage in sexual activity.

Under state law, the punishment for sexting is:

  • A $10000 fine and up to four years in prison if found guilty of possession of child sexually abusive material.
  • Seven years in prison and or a $50000 fine for anyone found guilty of distribution of child pornography.
  • A $100000 fine and up to 29 years in prison for anyone found guilty of distribution of child pornography.

What to remember

  • If the child depicted in the sexually explicit video or picture is prepubescent, if a person possesses more than 100 sexually abusive materials, Or the material involves bestiality or sadomasochistic abuse, the accused is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of up to $75000 and or 15 years in prison.
  • Anyone convicted of a felony child porn charge must register as a sex offender.

Prosecuted as an adult for sexting in Michigan?

For petty offenses, teenage offenders face prosecution in family court/juvenile court. Juvenile courts aim to rehabilitate, not punish. Therefore, the teen may be released with a warning, ordered -to do community service, enroll in a suitable program, curfew, monitoring, or the court may order probation or incarceration in a juvenile correctional facility.

But, if the facts presented show that the teen committed a serious felony, he-she may face trial as an adult.

Note that under state law, anyone above 18 is an adult (starting October 2021), previously, 17-year-olds were prosecuted as adults.   

That said.

Anyone above fourteen may face trial as an adult if accused of a serious felony. If transferred to adult court, upon conviction, the teen must register as a sex offender. The court may also order electronic monitoring, incarceration, or any suitable punishment.

Michigan sexting laws and sex offender registration

Who must register as a sex offender? Teens tried as adults for possessing, sharing, or creating sexually abusive material must register as sex offenders.

Under Michigan law, tier 1 offenders -that is- anyone convicted of indecent exposure with self-fondling, possession of child pornography, or fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, must register. Also, if the accused is a sexually delinquent person, he-she must register. Failure to register as a sex offender is a felony offense punishable by up to seven years in prison and or a $5000 fine for a second offense. A first offense is punishable by up to four years in prison and or a $2000 fine.

Michigan sexting laws and soliciting a minor

Soliciting a minor to engage in sexual conduct is a felony in Michigan under section 750.145a-750.145b.

The law states that anyone who accosts, entices, solicits, or encourages a child to commit an act of gross indecency, has sexual intercourse, or engages or performs any other indecent act with a child is guilty of a Class F felony. A class F felony in Michigan is punishable by up to four years in prison and or a fine going up to $4000. The crime escalates into a class D felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine up to $10000 if the accused has prior records.

The statute reads, quote, “A person who accosts, entices, or solicits a child less than 16 years of age, regardless of whether the person knows the individual is a child or knows the actual age of the child, or an individual whom he or she believes is a child less than 16 years of age with the intent to induce or force that child or individual to commit an immoral act, to submit to an act of sexual intercourse or an act of gross indecency, or any other act of depravity or delinquency, or who encourages a child less than 16 years of age, regardless of whether the person knows the individual is a child or knows the actual age of the child, or an individual whom he or she believes is a child less than 16 years of age to engage in any of those acts is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $4,000.00, or both.”

What if a person solicits a child interstate via an electronic device?

Federal law comes into play.

Under federal law, soliciting, attempted or otherwise, is punishable by between 10 years behind bars and life.

Also, if convicted of soliciting, enticing, or accosting a child, the accused must register as a sex offender.

Michigan sexting laws and malicious use of a telephone

Under 750.540 “Malicious use of Telephone Service,” using a phone or any other electronic device capable of sending or receiving texts or images to terrorize, harass, molest, or frighten someone is illegal. What that means is using vulgar, obscene, indecent, or offensive language on phone or emails is a punishable offense.

What about unsolicited sexts?

Unsolicited sexts qualify as harassing, obscene or vulgar communication. Under state law, anyone accused of using a phone to harass may face misdemeanor charges punishable by a fine of up to $1000 and or up to six months in jail.

What does the statute prohibit?

  • Suggesting lewd or lascivious acts or use of vulgar, obscene, or offensive language (d)
  • Making repeated calls, and deliberately hanging up or without speaking (e).
  • Unsolicited commercial texts or calls between 9 pm and 9 am (f).

Michigan sexting laws, cyberbullying and sextortion

Public act 457 (2018) says that in Michigan cyberbullying is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and or a $500 fine. The crime escalates into a felony if there is a repeated pattern of harassment. State law defines cyberbullying as “posting of statement/message on social media/public forum about another person with the intent to cause fear of death or bodily harm, or to express an intention to commit violence against the victim.”

When does sexting turn into cyberbullying?

Using messages or pictures received to embarrass the sender or anyone else constitutes cyberbullying. For instance, a person may post embarrassing pictures of a former friend or partner on social media. If the victim is above 18, the crime is harassment or cyberbullying depending on the facts presented. However, if the photos are sexual and the victim is below 18, it becomes Distribution of Child Pornography.

Remember, in Michigan, a set of facts may bring multiple charges including, harassment, solicitation, child pornography, and other related charges.

The shield act prohibits sextortion

After sending sexually explicit photos to someone, there is no telling what that person might do with the photos or videos. Some may use the media to extort the victim. For example, an adult may solicit nude photos from an adult or minor and then use the images to threaten or intimidate the sender. Under the shield act, sharing private, nude, or sexually explicit images of anyone without consent is unlawful.  

Remember, under federal law, extortion and attempted extortion is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10000.

Michigan sexting laws and revenge porn

MPC 750.145e says that it is a crime to coerce, threaten, or disseminate any sexually explicit images of anyone who is less than 18, or any photo of a person taken when the person depicted had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The statute reads, quote “An individual shall not knowingly and with the aim to threaten, coerce, or intimidate distribute any sexually explicit visual media of another person if the following conditions apply: (1) The other person is not less than 18 years of age. (b) The other person is identifiable from the sexually explicit visual material itself or information displayed in connection with the sexually explicit visual material. This subdivision does not apply if the identifying information is supplied by a person other than the disseminator. (c) The person obtains the sexually explicit visual material of the other person under circumstances in which a reasonable person would know or understand that the sexually explicit visual material was to remain private. (d) The person knows or reasonably should know that the other person did not consent to the dissemination of the sexually explicit visual material.”

Navigating these laws on your own is difficult, we recommend consulting with an experienced local attorney today.

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