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New Jersey Sexting Laws

New Jersey sexting laws aim to protect sexting teens from the state’s harsh pornography laws and punish sexual predators. Before 2012, upon conviction for sending or receiving inappropriate images, teens had to register as sex offenders and serve time.

Quick take

  • New Jersey sexting diversion program only applies to first time offenders.
  • New Jersey sexting laws do not prevent prosecutors from pursuing solicitation, child pornography and other charges.
  • Teens and adults convicted of felony or federal crimes must register as sex offenders.

New Jersey Sexting Laws

In 2012, New Jersey created a diversion program whose purpose is to shield first-time teen offenders from child pornography possession and distribution charges. Today, teens accused of sexting or exchanging sexually explicit messages or texts face punishment, including counselling, probation, community service, or any other less severe punishment that suits the crime. However, as mentioned, the diversion program only applies to first-time offenders.

What that means is if a teen has prior records, or if they commit a felony or federal crime, the teen may face child pornography charges, solicitation, indecent exposure, and other charges. It is also true that a single set of facts may result in multiple charges.

What if a teen sends you nude photos in New Jersey?

Upon conviction, the court may order the teen who created and sent the photos to participate in an educational program or counselling. However, that condition only applies if the sender and receiver are below 18 and the age difference between the two is not more than five years.

If a teen sends nudes to an adult, the questions the court will ask include, did the adult solicit, encourage, entice, or lure the child in any way to send pictures? If yes, the adult will face solicitation and child pornography charges. If you receive an inappropriate photo or video without enticing or soliciting the teen, you should take reasonable action to delete the media or report the activity to law enforcement or the child’s caregivers.

A teen tried as an adult or a teen who commits a felony, say – posts a photo of a minor online or distributes the images to multiple individuals, and repeat offenders -may also face child pornography charges.

When does sexting become a crime in New Jersey?

NJSA 2C:24-4B(5)(B). “Endangering the Welfare of a Child” states that it is unlawful to knowingly view or possess any media, including video games, that depict a child engaged in a sexual act. The law applies to simulations and actual acts.

During the trial, the prosecution must prove four elements, that is. (1) The accused possessed and viewed the photo, video, or image. (2) The accused committed the act knowingly or had reason to know that the person depicted is below 18. (3) The photo, video, or other media depicted a child or minor engaging in a sexual act. (4) The accused knew or should have known that depicted persons were engaging in a prohibited act.

What the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is; the person depicted was below sixteen at the time of the offense. Consequently, not knowing that the child was below sixteen is not a defense.

Remember, in New Jersey, child pornography possession may be actual, joint, or constructive possession. That means having knowledge of child pornography and not reporting to the appropriate authorities is also a crime.

NJSA 2C:24-4 Endangering the Welfare of Children: what to remember

  • Exposing a minor to sexual activity in a manner that may debauch or impair his or her morals is a third-degree offense that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. If the act is committed by a parent or by one who has authority over the child, the crime escalates into a second-degree offense.
  • Creating, permitting, or recording a child engaged in a sexual act (child pornography creation) is a first-degree offense punishable by up to twenty years in prison. Anyone who photographs a child in a state of nudity, or while engaged in a sexual act, is guilty of a second-degree offense.
  • The distribution of child pornography is a second-degree offense.
  • Possession of child pornography is a second-degree offense.

It is also worth noting that the court may label an individual who shares or disseminates child pornography as the “Leader of a Child Pornography Network,” a first, second, or third-degree crime depending on the number of photos or videos the accused is found in possession of.

New Jersey sexting laws and sex offender registration

As mentioned, first-time teen offenders or teens without prior records/not declared delinquent will not have to register as sex offenders, and the record will not stick. However, there are situations where a teen may face prosecution in adult court. For example, if a teen violates federal law or commits multiple felonies. Upon conviction, the teen must register as a sex offender.

In New Jersey, anyone who Endangers the Welfare of a Child, commits Criminal Sexual Contact (victim is a child), and anyone convicted of luring, enticing, soliciting, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any other crime related to sexual contact. Must register as a sex offender.

Like adults, juvenile offenders must also register as sex offenders upon conviction.

New Jersey sexting laws and soliciting a minor

As mentioned, soliciting, enticing, luring, encouraging, or attempting to or conspiring to commit said crimes is both a state and federal crime. Under federal law, soliciting a minor, attempted, conspired, or committed, is punishable by up to life in prison.

Under New Jersey law, luring or soliciting sexual conduct via an electronic device is a second-degree crime with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

New Jersey’s Megan’s law

Persons accused of committing aggravated sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, kidnapping, or criminal sexual contact may receive Megan’s law tier notice. Tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3 are classifications based on the risk of re-offense.

If you receive a Tier 1 notice, you must notify law enforcement in your area.

New Jersey sexting laws and criminal sexual contact

Under New Jersey law, NJSA 2C:14-3b, a person is guilty of criminal sexual contact if the individual: (1) uses coercion (orally or via an electronic device) or forces a child to engage in sexual conduct. (2) The victim is less than sixteen years of age or less than 18. (3) the accused is a relative of the victim by affinity or blood. (4) the victim is on parole or detained in a hospital, prison, or other institution, and the act is committed by a person who has authority over the victim.

The statute reads in part, quote, “Sexual contact means an intentional touching by (name of victim) or by the defendant, either directly or through clothing, of (name of victim’s) or defendant’s intimate parts to degrade or humiliate (name of victim) or sexually arousing or gratifying defendant.”

What to remember

  • If the prosecutor accuses the defendant of touching himself, prosecution must prove that the act happened in the view of the victim.

New Jersey sexting laws and obscenity

Under New Jersey law, section 2C:34-2, “obscene material” refers to any media that depicts sexual acts, including masturbation, lewd exhibition of the genitals, excretory functions, or intercourse that lacks any serious, literal, political, educational, or scientific value.

Displaying or selling this type of content is unlawful and may constitute harassment. What that means is sending nudes or obscene materials without the consent of the receiver is unlawful.

New Jersey sexting laws and Exposing obscenity to a juvenile

NJSA 2C:2C:34-3 “Obscenity for Persons Under 18” states that anyone who displays obscene materials to a minor is guilty of a crime of the third degree. The statute provides two defenses. (1) the victim misrepresented their age. (2)  quote “It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under subsection c. that the defendant is an employee in a motion picture theatre who has no financial interest in that motion picture theatre other than his wages and has no decision-making authority or responsibility concerning the selection of the motion-picture show which is exhibited.”

NJSA 2C: 34:3: what to remember

  • Sending obscene material/ pornography and promoting obscene material to a minor are crimes of the third degree.

New Jersey sexting laws and harassment

In New Jersey, a person commits harassment via an electronic device if the person:

  • Calls the victim at extremely inconvenient hours.
  • The person engages in repeated acts to alarm or annoy.
  • A person uses offensively coarse language or any other manner that may annoy or alarm the victim.

If you are the victim of unsolicited nudes or harassing phone calls, you may take civil action against the offender or seek protection orders.

References:

Other New Jersey Laws

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