North Dakota Sexting Laws

Under North Dakota sexting laws 12.1-27-03.3, sending inappropriate pictures without the depicted person’s consent is a misdemeanor punishable by up to thirty days in jail and a $1000 fine. Here is why that could be dangerous for teens in the state:

Quick take:

  • Sexting between a teen and adult may result in multiple felony charges, including child pornography.
  • Teens tried under North Dakota’s sexting statute 12.1-127-03.3 do not have to register as sex offenders.
  • If tried in adult court, or adults convicted of indecent exposure via electronic device, child pornography or crimes mentioned below- the accused must register as a sex offender.
  • Registered sex offenders in North Dakota cannot be within fifty feet of places where minors congregate.

North Dakota sexting laws summary

North Dakota century code section 12.1-27-03.3 says that anyone who knowingly creates and distributes sexually explicit images without the consent of the person depicted is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. If both the accused and or victim are below 18, prosecutors will likely pursue charges under this statute. Meaning, upon conviction, the teens will not have to register as sex offenders but may have to pay a $1000 fine and or spend up to thirty days in a juvenile facility.

If the parents or legal representation consent, they may solve the issue out of court.

Note that chapter 32-03 of the North Dakota Century code states, quote, 

An individual whose intimate image is distributed in violation of section 1 of this Act may maintain a private right of action against each person who has distributed that image in violation of section 1 of this Act, without regard to whether the defendant has been charged with, found guilty of, or pleaded guilty to that offense. An individual whose intimate image is distributed in violation of section 1 of this Act is entitled to pursue all of the economic, noneconomic, and exemplary or punitive damages and other remedies available by law and to obtain a temporary restraining order or a preliminary or permanent injunction ordering the person to cease distribution of the intimate image.”

That said. Unlawful dissemination is not the only charge that prosecutors may pursue. Depending on the facts presented and the accused’s age, prosecutors may charge the accused with soliciting sexual conduct from a minor, promoting obscenity to minors, or creating, possessing, or disseminating sexually explicit images and related charges.

What you must remember is that prosecutors have two options, one, charge the accused under the state’s sexting law enacted in 2011 if under 18, or two, pursue child pornography or related charges mentioned above. What that means is if a teen commits a federal crime or multiple felonies, prosecutors may recommend trial as an adult.

Remember; to transfer to adult court. In addition, the teen must be at least 14, have prior felony convictions, and the crime committed must involve the threat of -or serious bodily injury or death.

For minor offenses such as teens exchanging nudes, the accused will go through the juvenile system. In the juvenile system, apart from a fine or time. The court may also order probation, community service, counseling, or other corrective measures.

When does sexting turn into child pornography in North Dakota?

Under federal and state law, possession, distribution, promotion, and creation of child pornography are all felonies. Consequently, any teen found in possession of explicit images depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct may face child pornography charges.

Under chapter, “Sexual Performances by Children,” the term “obscene sexual performance” refers to any picture, photo, dance, or other visual representation that depicts a child engaged in sexual conduct. “Sexual conduct” refers to acts including sexual intercourse, masturbation, nude or denuded human figure, lewd exhibition of the genitals/breasts/buttocks, sodomy, and all related acts.

That means any performance or material that depicts a child engaged in any of the acts above constitutes child pornography.

Under the statute, persuading, enticing, coercing, or in any way causing a child to engage in sexual performance is a class A felony.

What to remember:

  • Asking, employing, or paying a child to perform a sexual performance is a felony.
  • Possessing a sexual performance of a child is a class C felony.
  • Promoting or directing obscene performance by a child is a Class A felony.

The statute provides two affirmative defenses. One, the accused reasonably believed that the minor depicted was above 15. Two, the accused disseminated photos, video, or other media for a bonafide medical, educational, religious, or scientific purpose.

Juvenile or adult court?

If the teen commits multiple felonies or a federal crime, the court may try the teen as an adult. If tried as an adult, the teen will likely face child pornography charges/ promotion of sexual performances by children, charges that require the accused to register as a sex offender upon conviction.

Remember, the age of consent in North Dakota is 18, meaning a child below 18 does not have the legal authority to consent to perform a sexual act or contact.

Once registered as a sex offender in North Dakota, be you a teen or adult, you cannot be within a specified distance of places where minors congregate, including schools.

North Dakota sexting laws and luring a minor by computer

Under 12.1-20-05.1, “Luring Minors by Computer or other Electronic Devices,” an adult is guilty of luring a minor when the individual knowingly importunes, induces, invites, or in any way lures a minor to engage in sexual performance, obscene sexual performance, or any other conduct that would benefit the adult sexually.

Under state law, luring a minor is a class A misdemeanor if the accused is below twenty-two and the teen above fifteen but no older than eighteen. Any adult above twenty-two that attempts to lure or lures a child to engage in sexual conduct or performance is guilty of a class C felony. If the minor is below fifteen, the adult is guilty of a class B felony.

What if the adult did not meet the teen?

If the adult did not take substantial steps toward meeting the teen, say arrange a meeting point, the law requires the court to sentence the adult to less than one year in jail.

12.1-20-05.1. – What to remember:

  • Discussing or displaying obscene/ sexually explicit material to a teen is unlawful.
  • The statute allows the attorney general to issue an administrative subpoena compelling the accused’s internet service provider or cell phone company to share subscriber information with law enforcement.

North Carolina sexting laws and disseminating obscenity to a minor

Under 12-1-27.1-03 “Promoting Obscenity to Minors,” a person is guilty of promoting obscenity if the individual knowingly produces, transports, or sends obscene materials/ material harmful to minors to a juvenile. For example, if an adult sends photos of his genitals to a child, the adult is guilty of disseminating obscenity.

Under the statute, Promoting or Sending Obscene Material to a Minor is a class C felony. Remember, “obscene or material harmful to minors” refers to any material, physical or digital, that depicts in whatever form -sexual excitement, or sexual conduct that appeals to the prurient sexual interest of minors, and is offensive to prevailing adult standard, and lacks serious literary, scientific, educational, or political value.

North Dakota sexting laws and corruption or solicitation of minors

Under 12.1-20-05 “Corruption or Solicitation of Minors,” any adult who solicits sexual acts or performance from a child above 15 is guilty of a misdemeanor. If the adult is above twenty-two and the child under 15, attempting to solicit and soliciting sexual conduct from a minor becomes a class C felony.

Remember, under federal law, the maximum sentence for soliciting sex from a minor -in person or using an electronic device- is life in prison.

Soliciting a minor may escalate into a class B felony if the activity happens within fifty feet of an elementary, middle, or high school.

North Dakota sexting laws and luring minors via an electronic device

Note that soliciting sex from a minor and luring a minor via electronic device are separate felony offenses. Under 12.1-20-05.1, an individual is guilty of luring a minor if he knowingly initiates or engages in communication with a minor with intent to discuss activity or performance of a sexual nature, including sexual contact. Section B of the statute reads, quote,

Through that communication, the adult importunes, invites, or induces a person the adult believes to be a minor to engage in sexual acts or to have sexual contact with the adult, or to engage in a sexual performance, obscene sexual performance, or sexual conduct for the adult’s benefit, satisfaction, lust, passions, or sexual desires.”

Luring a minor is a class A misdemeanor if the adult is below twenty-two years of age and the child above fifteen but not older than seventeen. Suppose the adult is above twenty-two and the child above fifteen. The crime escalates into a class C felony and a class B felony if the child -is or- was below 15 at the time of the crime.

North Dakota sexting laws and indecent exposure

Under 12.1-2—12.1. “Indecent exposure” an adult exposing himself in person or via electronic device constitutes indecent exposure. The statute reads in part: Quote.

 An individual, with intent to arouse, appeal to, or gratify that individual’s lust, passions, or sexual desires, is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if that individual: a. Masturbates in a public place or the presence of a minor; b. Exposes the individual’s penis, vulva, or anus in a public place or to a minor in a public or private place; c. Exposes the individual’s penis, vulva, or anus by unsolicited electronic means; or d. Exposes the individual’s penis, vulva, or anus by any electronic means to a minor.”

Note that if the accused exposes himself within fifty feet of a school or location where minors congregate, indecent exposure escalates into a class B felony.

North Dakota sexting laws and sextortion

Using sexually explicit pictures, videos, or other media obtained under circumstances where the person depicted had a reasonable expectation of privacy for extortion is a class B felony if the person in the photo is a minor or vulnerable adult. If not, then sextortion is a class A misdemeanor.

Tip: victims of sexual extortion may take legal action to recover monetary or other damages.

In short, sexting in North Dakota may result in multiple felony charges if the teen is tried as an adult. However, if tried under the state’s sexting laws, the punishment is less severe.


Other North Dakota Laws

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