There are no specific sexting laws in Montana; because of that, sexting amongst teens is a criminal offense punishable under laws, including indecent exposure, child pornography, or solicitation of a minor. (keep reading)
- Teens convicted of felony child pornography possession and distribution must register as sex offenders.
- Nude selfies constitute child pornography.
- The punishment for child porn possession and distribution in Montana is between 10 years to life.
- Victims of unsolicited sexts or phone harassment may take civil action to recover damages.
- Federal law prohibits the creation of pornography by anyone below 18.
- Title 41-chapter 3 Child Abuse and Neglect.
- Montana code section 45-5-625 Sexual Abuse of Children/ Child Pornography Creation
- 46-23-502 Registration and Violent Offenders
- Montana code 45-8-213. Privacy in Communication.
Montana sexting laws summary
Under state law, child pornography possession, creation, and distribution carry a maximum sentence of life behind bars. Without sexting laws, there is no law to shield teen offenders from adult punishment. That means sexting teens risk prison and registration into the state’s sex offender registry. However, the sentence often depends on the system the minor goes through. That means that teens who commit serious felonies or federal crimes related to child pornography may face prosecution in adult court.
On the other hand, teens who commit petty offenses or misdemeanors face prosecution in the juvenile system. According to the state, juvenile law aims to rehabilitate, not punish. Consequently, the court has punishment options including a warning, incarceration, probation, the judge may order community service, or the teen to participate in an educational program.
Teen prosecution for sexting in Montana is rare, but it may happen if there is the production and distribution of child pornography.
When does sexting become child pornography in Montana?
Under title 41, chapter 3, “Child Abuse and Neglect.” Child refers to anyone below 18; however, the age of consent is 16 in the state.
What constitutes child pornography in Montana?
On the federal level, possessing a sexually explicit photo or video of a child (below18) engaged in a sexual act constitutes child pornography.
Under Montana code section 45-5-625, “Sexual Abuse of Children/ Child Pornography Creation.” An individual is guilty of committing child abuse if the person;
(1) using an electronic device or orally, that person entices, persuades, counsels, coerces, encourages, directs, or procures anyone below 16 years of age to view sexually explicit content or engage in sexual conduct. (2) knowingly photographing, filming, videotaping, or developing, any image, still or moving, depicting a child engaged in sexual conduct.
Under the statute, it is also unlawful to:
- Finance any activity that may result in the production and distribution of child pornography.
- Knowingly possess child pornography.
- Photograph or entice, encourage, or solicit a child to create child pornography.
Remember, the term “sexual conduct” means actual or simulated acts; consequently, deep fakes and photoshop images depicting a child engaged in a sexual act are unlawful to create and possess.
Do nude selfies constitute child pornography in Montana?
Is the person depicted in the selfie below 16? If yes, then that selfie constitutes child pornography. Also, do not forget that under federal law, any photo of a minor below 18 engaged in sexual conduct, including sexual intercourse, sodomy, bestiality, sadomasochistic abuse, lewd exhibition of breasts and genitals, or urination/defecation for arousal constitutes child pornography.
Note that a single set of facts may result in multiple charges; for example, an adult guilty of sexting a minor may face prosecution for sexual abuse of children and obscenity.
What to remember:
- Sending sext/ explicit messages to a minor (text and photos) is unlawful in Montana.
- Attempting to lure a child orally, or via electronic means to engage in sexual conduct is a criminal offense.
- Requesting/soliciting sex from a minor is a crime.
Also, each act may constitute a separate offense, so it is advisable to consult with a defense attorney.
What is the punishment for sexting and sexual exploitation of a child in Montana?
Under Montana code section 45-5-625, anyone found guilty of sexual abuse of children may serve a prison sentence not exceeding 100 years and or pay a fine up to $10000.
- If the victim of sexual abuse is below sixteen, the minimum sentence is four years, and the maximum sentence is life.
- If the victim was younger than twelve, the court cannot differ imposition or suspend execution of the sentence for the first twenty-five years.
Montana sexting laws and indecent exposure
Under state law, an individual is guilty of indecent exposure if he-she knowingly exposes the genitals or breasts by any means.
“by any means” includes via smartphone, in person, electronic communication, on the internet, and so on. The law works under the assumption that the person guilty of indecent exposure knew or should have known that the conduct would be observed by anyone below 16.
What to remember
- Indecent exposure is punishable by a maximum of six months in county jail and or a $500 fine.
- If the accused has prior records, the punishment escalates to a maximum fine of $1000 and or imprisonment for up to one year.
- Any further violation is punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10000.
Montana sexting laws and sex offender registration
Under 46-23-502 “Registration and Violent Offenders,” anyone guilty of a predatory sexual offense, indecent exposure (victim below 18), incest, sexual abuse of children, sexual intercourse without consent, and solicitation of a child 12 years of age or younger must register as a sex offender.
Failure to register as a sex offender in Montana is punishable by up to five years in prison and or a $10000 fine.
Montana sexting laws and soliciting a minor
Under Montana code section 45-4-101, “solicitation” refers to commanding, encouraging, or facilitating the commission of an offense. For example, suppose anyone creates an online platform that allows individuals to solicit sexual conduct from minors. In that case, the owner of that platform is just as guilty as the person performing the crime.
What is vital to remember is that under state and federal law, it is unlawful for anyone, teen, or adult to solicit sex or sexual conduct from a minor, in person, or via an electronic device.
What to remember
- Persuading, harassing, or soliciting sexual intercourse or conduct from anyone below 18 is a federal and state crime.
- Soliciting, attempting to, and conspiring to solicit sexual conduct from a minor using any electronic or communication device is a crime.
- Ignorance of the victim’s age, and consent from a minor -is not a defense
Montana sexting laws, harassment, and unsolicited sexts
Sending nudes or sexts without consent constitutes harassment in Montana. Montana code 45-8-213. “Privacy in Communication.” States that an individual violates another’s privacy if they (1) with intent to harass, threaten, offend, or annoy, the person uses an electronic device to send obscene, lewd, or profane communication, or suggest lewd or lascivious acts. (2) the person uses an electronic device to extort anything of value from the victim or disturb the victim’s peace via repeated communication.
The statute prohibits:
- The use of obscene or lewd language on an electronic device with intent to threaten, harass, annoy, or offend.
- Using any device to secretly record conversations in places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy (does not apply to public spaces and public meetings).
In Montana, violation of privacy is punishable by up to six months at the county jail and or a fine not exceeding $500. If the offender has prior records, the punishment escalates to up to one year in prison and or a $1000 fine. Any subsequent violation is punishable by up to five years in prison and or a $1000 fine.
Note: victims of harassment may take civil action against the offender.
Montana sexting laws and revenge porn
Under 4508-213 (house bill 192), quote,
“a person commits the offense of violating privacy in communications if the person knowingly or purposely: (a) with the purpose to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, communicates with a person by electronic communication and uses obscene, lewd, or profane language, suggests a lewd or lascivious act, or threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to the person or property of the person (b) uses electronic communication to attempt to extort money or any other thing of value from a person or to disturb by repeated communications the peace, quiet, or right of privacy of a person at the place where the communications are received.”
The statute also prohibits:
- Dissemination of sexually explicit images without consent (revenge porn).
- Using any electronic device for extortion.
Other Montana Laws