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Minnesota Sexting Laws

Specific laws in Minnesota related to sexting do not exist (yet). Persons accused of sending inappropriate texts, pictures, or videos face prosecution under the states harsh child pornography laws

Quick take:

  • Teens tried as adults for child pornography violations and adults convicted of child pornography possession or distribution must register as sex offenders.
  • The punishment for petty offences committed by teens includes, incarceration in a juvenile facility, probation, educational program, community service, or electronic monitoring.
  •  Minnesota child pornography laws do not prevent prosecution for other offences including solicitation, revenge porn, and harassment.

Statute Reference:

Download Minnesota felony and misdemeanor sentencing guideline.

Minnesota sexting laws summary

Yes. If you solicit sexual images from a child, if a minor sends you nudes, or if you entice or encourage a minor to create and send nudes, you as an adult may go to jail. Why? Under Minnesota child pornography laws minors do not have the legal right to consent to the creation of sexually explicit images. Consequently, both the minor creating and sending sexually explicit photos or pictures and the person receiving are guilty of possession of child pornography. The charges escalate into possession and distribution if either party sends the image to more than one person. For example, if the person receiving displays, forwards, or posts the picture on social media, then he-she is guilty of felony child pornography distribution. Although legally a minor may be charged with distribution of child pornography, Rice County District Judge John Cajacob has gone on record stating “State law aims to punish child abusers, not teens who sext each other,”.

When does sexting become child pornography in Minnesota?

Note that sexting between consenting adults is legal in Minnesota. But, if a minor sends you a sexually explicit photo or image, or if an adult sends explicit images to a child, the act becomes illegal. Furthermore, teen-to teen sexting is illegal. State law prohibits:

  • Asking, directing, or soliciting a child to engage in making explicit content.
  • Possessing visual images of a child below 18 engaged in a sexual act is also a violation of Minnesota child pornography laws.
  • Possessing without sending child pornography is also a crime.

In short, under Minnesota child pornography laws, it is unlawful to create, possess, or distribute child pornography.

What is the punishment for sexting in Minnesota?

Note that Minnesota law not only prohibits the exchange of lewd or sexually explicit material. It also prohibits the sending of obscene texts to adults and minors and solicitation. Furthermore, a single set of evidence can result in multiple charges. For example, if a person solicits or attempts to solicit sexual images from a child, receives and possesses the images, and sends the images to a third party. The offender will likely face multiple child pornography charges.

617.247 “Possession of Pornographic Work Involving Minors” subd.2. says that anyone who knowingly distributes pornography to a minor or adult is guilty of a felony, the punishment for which is not more than seven years in prison and or a $10000 fine.

If the accused has prior delinquency adjudication or prior conviction/s, is a registered sex offender, or if the victim is below 13, the individual is guilty of a felony punishable by not more than fifteen years in prison and or a fine, not more than $20000.

Subd.3. says that it is a felony to knowingly possess child pornography on any electronic device.

 Anyone found in violation of this subdivision, say, found guilty of possessing child pornography on a computer, smartphone, cloud storage, optical storage device, or any other storage device or service. Is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine, not more than $5000, and or imprisonment for not more than five years.

If the accused has prior convictions, the victim is below 13, or if the accused is a registered sex offender, the punishment escalates to imprisonment for not more than three years and or a $10000 fine.

Affirmative defense

Subd. 8. Provides one affirmative defense -that is- the pornographic work was created or produced using only individuals older than 18.

Do nude selfies constitute pornography?

Under Minnesota child pornography laws nude selfies created by anyone younger than 18 constitute child pornography, the punishment escalates if the minor in the photo is below 15.

What to remember

  • A minor, the minor’s guardians, or custodian do not have the authority to consent to sexual performance by a child, so consent is not a defense.
  • If the accused has prior records (delinquency or adult conviction) he-she qualifies for enhanced punishment.

Minnesota sexting laws and solicitation of a minor

Under state and federal laws, soliciting a minor and attempting to solicit a minor for sex are both felonies. That means if an adult in Minnesota sends sexually explicit pictures of himself or herself, or if the adult requests the child to engage in sexual conduct, the individual is guilty of a felony.

A violation escalates into a federal crime if the activity happens interstate or across state lines. Under federal law, soliciting sex or sexual conduct from a minor carries a sentence between ten years to life. However, federal law only applies to the adult, meaning a teen accused of committing a federal crime will either face prosecution as an adult or go through juvenile adjudication.

Under 609.352 “Solicitation of Children to Engage in Sexual Conduct/ Communication of Sexually Explicit Material to Children” the term “child” refers to anyone below 15, whereas solicit means to command, entreat, or attempt to persuade an individual, by telephone, letter, or any other electronic means.

The statute states that it is a felony for anyone above 18 to use internet services or any electronic device to solicit a child to engage in sexual conduct, to engage in any communication with a child that relates to or describes sexual conduct, and to distribute any communication, material, language, including videos or images that describe or depict a child engaged in sexual conduct.

Subd. 3. States that, quote “Mistake as to age is not a defense to a prosecution under this section”

Felony solicitation of a minor is punishable by three years in prison and a fine not more than $5000. The statute reads in part, quote “A person 18 years of age or older who uses the Internet, a computer, computer program, computer network, computer system, an electronic communications system, or a telecommunications, wire, or radio communications system, or other electronic devices capable of electronic data storage or transmission to commit any of the following acts, with the intent to arouse the sexual desire of any person, is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced as provided in subdivision (1) soliciting a child or someone the person reasonably believes is a child to engage in sexual conduct;(2) engaging in communication with a child or someone the person reasonably believes is a child, relating to or describing sexual conduct; or (3) distributing any material, language, or communication, including a photographic or video image, that relates to or describes sexual conduct to a child or someone the person reasonably believes is a child.”

Can Teens be Tried as an adult

Teens above fourteen accused of breaking federal law or committing a serious felony related to child pornography may face charges in adult court. When transferred to adult court, the teen will likely face adult punishment including, registration into the state’s sex offender registry.

For petty offenses, the teen will go through the juvenile system. The juvenile court aims to correct behavior, not punish. Consequently, the punishment options include:

  • Counseling
  • Educational program
  • Probation
  • A court warning

The court may also order juvenile detention.

Minnesota sexting laws, electronic monitoring, and sex offender registration

 Teens and adult offenders convicted of felony child pornography charges must register as sex offenders. Furthermore, convicts on conditional release, parole, or probation -may have to wear a GPS Tracking device.

What to remember

  • All level three offenders must wear electronic monitoring devices for up to sixty days or more.
  • Teens convicted in adult court must register as sex offenders.
  • Under state law, once registered as a sex offender, juveniles cannot petition for early termination.

Minnesota sexting laws and revenge porn

Under 617.261 “Non-Consensual Dissemination of Private Images,” intentionally sharing, posting, or distributing a visual depiction of an identifiable person engaged in a sexual act, or whose private parts are exposed is a subdivision 1 misdemeanor. The law works under the assumption that the victim can be identified from the photo or video itself or the information provided with the image, and the victim had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The punishment (Subd. 2.)  is not more than three years in prison and or a $5000 fine.

Consent is not a defense if the victim suffers financial loss, the person sharing the image or video profits from it, the offender posts the picture or video on a website, the accused acquired the image using a hidden device, or if the actor has a prior conviction.

What about sending or receiving photos acquired illegally?

Anyone who secretly films or photographs another who has a reasonable expectation of privacy violates Minnesota’s voyeur law (Minn. Stat. 609.746). voyeurism or surreptitious intrusion is a gross misdemeanor. The crime escalates into a felony if:

  • A person installs or uses any electronic device to amplify or broadcast sounds, record, photograph, or observe the victim in any location where he-she has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • The accused has prior records.

Is sending unsolicited pictures to a minor or adult illegal in Minnesota?

Yes. Under multiple laws, it is illegal to send unsolicited sexts to a minor or adult. According to Minnesota harassment laws, unwanted sexual advances, offensive jokes, inappropriate emails, and unwelcome communication of a sexual nature constitute harassment. Under the statute 609.749 “Harassment, Stalking, Penalties,” any act via a telephone or electronic device that causes the victim to suffer “substantial emotional distress” such as losing sleep, loss of productivity, loss of appetite, suicidal ideation, and so on is a gross misdemeanor.

For example, if someone calls and threatens to kill, harm, or in some way harasses you, the person is guilty of harassment. It is also a crime to make repeated calls, cause someone else’s phone to ring repeatedly or use someone else’s information without consent.

In short, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical communication of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment. If you are a victim of such action, you may take civil action to recover damages.

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

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