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Ohio Sexting Laws

Ohio does not have a specific statute addressing teen sexting. That is problematic in that teens accused of creating and disseminating nudes may face felony child pornography charges. Prosecutors may also pursue child endangerment charges, pandering, solicitation/enticing a minor, or any other charge that applies.

Quick take:

  • Sending and receiving sexually explicit images depicting a child engaged in sexual conduct is a felony.
  • Ohio has a diversion program for teens accused of non-felony sexting crimes.
  • Nude selfies constitute child pornography.
  • Teens above fourteen may face charges in adult court.

Ohio sexting laws summary

Federal law defines sexting as the exchange of sexually explicit messages and pictures. If the act is consensual and both parties are adults, then there is no crime committed. A sexting crime happens when a child, that is, anyone below 18 as defined by state and federal law, creates, possesses, and shares or displays sexually explicit pictures. Under state and federal law, knowingly possessing, creating, sharing, or disseminating obscene material depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct constitutes felony child pornography.

Under state law, there is no distinction between an adult and a child (14+) if the offense committed is a felony or federal crime. Because of that, teens accused of sharing nudes or sexually explicit images of themselves or others may face child pornography possession and distribution charges. In addition, upon conviction, the teen may have to register as a sex offender.

Ohio sexting laws and cyber relations diversion program (CARD)

Felony convictions have lifelong consequences, including limited educational and work opportunities. To shield teens accused of misdemeanor sexting or nonfederal crimes, In 2015, Ohio introduced a youth diversion program named CARD (Cyber and Relational Diversion Program) to address inappropriate sexting, cyberbullying, sexual harassment, and cyber safety. The program is available to youth aged twelve to seventeen and relies on referrals from courts, teachers, parents, counsellors, and law enforcement.

The program is not available to youths currently on probation, supervision, and serving time.

If the court refers a juvenile offender to CARD, the offender will not have to register as a sex offender.

What to remember:

  • State law punishes both the sender and receiver.
  • The law works under the assumption that the sender knew or should have known that the person depicted is or was a minor at the time.
  • Prosecutors must prove that the receiver knew the nature of the contents.

Note: a felony of the second degree is punishable by a minimum of two years and a maximum of eight years. Or a fine of up to $20000. repeat offenders may receive up to ten years or more.

When does sexting become child pornography in Ohio?

State law defines child pornography as any media depicting a child engaged in sexual conduct, including intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, and other sexual acts.

Note: nude selfies may constitute child pornography.

Depending on the facts presented, Prosecutors may pursue one of the three listed charges below:

Ohio sexting laws and pandering obscenity involving a minor

Obscene material in Ohio under 2907.322 refers to any photo, video, or other media that depicts sexual acts, including masturbation, intercourse, and sodomy. Pandering materials of said nature to a minor is a felony of the second degree.

If the accused has priors, the individual qualifies for enhanced punishment.

Ohio sexting laws and 2907.323 illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material

As mentioned, “child” in Ohio refers to anyone below 18 years of age. Ohio revised code 2907.323, “illegal use of a minor or impaired person in nudity-oriented material performance,” outlaws photographing a child in a state of nudity. That means that in Ohio, nude selfies taken by a teen constitute child pornography. The crime escalates into possession and distribution if the accused shares, sends, or sells the pictures or video.

Illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material is a felony of the second degree. Suppose the accused also pleads guilty to section 2941.1422 (furtherance of human trafficking). In that case, the law requires the judge to sentence the accused to a mandatory prison sentence as provided in section 2929.14, which reads in part:

“For a felony of the second degree committed on or after the effective date of this amendment, the prison term shall be an indefinite prison term with a stated minimum term selected by the court of two, three, four, five, six, seven, or eight years and a maximum term that is determined under section 2929.144.

Ohio sexting laws and 2907.322. Pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor or impaired person

Under Ohio revised code 2907.322, it is unlawful to knowingly create, record, publish, or in any way make available any material that depicts a child engaged in sexual conduct. Sexual conduct refers to acts, including lewd exhibition of the breasts/buttocks/genitals, masturbation, bestiality, intercourse, sodomy, and other sexual acts. In addition, section 5 of the statute prohibits possession, solicitation, receiving, exchanging, and controlling sexually explicit material that shows a teen or child engaging in sexual conduct.

Under the statute, mistaking a child’s age is not a defense, and pandering sexually explicit material to a minor is a felony in the second degree.

Ohio sexting laws and child endangerment

Depending on the facts presented, prosecutors in Ohio may also pursue Child Endangerment charges. Similar to the state’s child pornography laws, there is no distinction between juvenile offenders and adult offenders. Consequently, anyone convicted under Ohio revised code section 2912.22 “Endangering Children” may have to register as a sex offender and serve jail time. Under the statute, anyone who endangers a child by using the child as the subject of sexually oriented material is guilty of a second-degree felony.

The law works under the assumption that the accused knew or should have known the material’s content.

What to remember:

  • State law prohibits and punishes parents who allow minors under their care to appear or create obscene material.
  • Mistake-of-age is not a defense.

Disseminating harmful material to a minor

Under state law, it is unlawful to offer, sell, display, or in any way make obscene material or pornography available to a child. Disseminating harmful material to a minor is a first-degree misdemeanor if the child is above thirteen. If the child is below thirteen, the crime escalates into a fourth-degree felony.

Upon conviction, the accused must register as a sex offender.

Juvenile or adult court?

Anyone above fourteen convicted of a sex-related felony must register as a sex offender. The state classifies sex offenders on a tier system. Tier 1 offenders must register annually for up to fifteen years, tier two offenders 29 years, and tier 3 offenders face lifetime registration.

Tier one offenses related to sexting

  • Importuning
  • Pandering
  • Illegal use of minor in nudity-oriented material
  • Public indecency Infront of a child

Tier two offenses related to sexting

  • Pandering involving a minor
  • Child pornography/use of a minor in nudity-oriented performance

Note that a repeat offender convicted of a tier 1 crime must register as a tier 2 offender for subsequent convictions.

Ohio sexting laws and importuning

To “importune” means to request or solicit persistently.

Section 2907.07 says that it is unlawful to solicit sexual conduct from a person who is less than thirteen. Note that not knowing the age of the victim is not a defense. Under state law, importuning is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a $10000 fine, and lifetime sex offender registration. If the victim is under the accused’s custody, the court may order the removal of child custody rights.

2907.07: what to remember:

  • State law allows law enforcement officers to pose as minors during an investigation.
  • Soliciting sexual conduct from a minor is a felony of the third degree for a first offense.
  • The mandatory minimum sentence for a repeat offender is between nine months and thirty-six months.

Ohio sexting laws and revenge porn/non-consensual dissemination

House Bill 497, introduced in 2018, prohibits the dissemination of sexually explicit images without the depicted person’s consent. Additionally, under the bill, victims of revenge porn have the right to take civil action against anyone who shares, posts, or disseminates photos taken when the victim has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Unlawful dissemination of private photos or videos is a third-degree misdemeanor for a first offense, a second-degree misdemeanor for a repeat offense, and a first-degree misdemeanor for subsequent offenses.

Tip: Note that the facts presented may lead to multiple felony convictions, and the younger the child, the harsher the punishment. We recommend consulting with an attorney immediately.

Federal sexting laws

Sexting may escalate into a federal crime if the activity happens across state or international borders. Under federal law, soliciting a Minor for sex/sexual conduct, Disseminating Harmful Material to Minors, and transporting minors across state lines with intent to engage in sexual conduct are all felonies that carry sentences ranging from ten years to life.

Ohio sexting laws and 2905.05 “criminal child enticement.”

Criminal Enticement is a felony of the fifth degree if the accused has a prior record in which the victim was under seventeen and a first-degree misdemeanor for a first offense. The statute reads in part, quote:

 “No person, by any means and without privilege to do so, shall knowingly solicit, coax, entice, or lure any child under fourteen years of age to accompany the person in any manner, including entering into any vehicle or onto any vessel, whether or not the offender knows the age of the child,”

What to remember 2905.05

  • Not knowing the child’s age is not a defense.

References

Other Ohio Laws

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