There are no specific sexting laws in Virginia; consequently, taking reasonable steps to delete the images or reporting the conduct to someone with authority over the teen may save you from felony child pornography charges.
- Virginia child pornography law does not distinguish between teen and adult offenders.
- Teens convicted of possession, dissemination or creation of child pornography must register as sex offenders.
- Displaying “grooming material” to a child is a class 6 felony.
- Virginia prohibits unsolicited/unwanted sexts and revenge porn.
- Victims of revenge porn, Cyberbullying and harassing phone calls may take civil action.
Virginia sexting laws: Summary
With no laws addressing teen sexting in Virginia, the creation of explicit images by a teen constitutes possession and the creation of child pornography. Child porn possession is a class 6 felony punishable by up to six years in prison. Additionally, sending the image to another minor or posting the images on social media may lead to a five-to-twenty-year prison sentence.
When charged with sexting, the facts presented will determine if the teen faces prosecution in juvenile court or adult court. In the juvenile system -It is less likely that the judge will order a teen to register as a sex offender. But if prosecutors successfully petition the court to transfer the case to adult court. Then, the teen may have to register as a sex offender for crimes, including creating, possessing, and distributing child pornography.
There is no distinction between adults and teens accused of sex crimes in Virginia
Under state statute 18.2-374.1:1 Possession, Reproduction, solicitation, and facilitation of child pornography. It is unlawful for anyone to possess, disseminate, display or in any way make child pornography available. It is also unlawful to persuade, solicit, or entice a teen to create pornography.
The statute imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for repeat offenders. The maximum sentence for a first offense is twenty years at a state correctional facility.
18.2-374.1:1 what to remember:
- Facilitating payment for child pornography is a class 4 felony.
- Under the statute, “child” refers to anyone below 18
As stated, in Virginia, there is no distinction between teen and adult offenders. Consequently, a teen creating and disseminating nude selfies constitutes the creation and dissemination of child pornography. Possession alone is a class 6 felony punishable by up to six years in prison; for repeat offenders, the punishment is up to ten years in prison. Distribution carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.
Note: the creation of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for repeat offenders. This may also apply to first-time offenders depending on the facts presented. Also, if the victim was below 15 at the time of creation, the maximum sentence escalates to thirty years in prison plus a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
Virginia sexting law defenses
If you did not solicit the images or in any way cause the child to create and disseminate child pornography. It is in your best interest to report the activity to law enforcement or someone with authority over the child (school or the minor’s parents).
When does sexting turn into child pornography in Virginia?
In Virginia, sexting between consenting adults is legal. What is illegal is the transfer of obscene or sexually explicit images depicting a child engaged in sexual conduct. “Sexual conduct” refers to acts including intercourse, sodomy, lewd exhibition of the genitals/breasts/buttocks, defecation, and all acts intended to arouse or gratify an individual sexually.
Consequently, any media depicting a child in a state of nudity that lacks scientific, medical, or educational value constitutes child pornography in the state.
Do not forget that child pornography is a felony on the federal and state level. Federal prosecution applies if the activity happens interstate or across international borders or if the state court is unable to process the case. Remember, some individuals may face both state and federal prosecution -which may lead to anywhere from ten years to life in prison.
Adult or juvenile court?
No distinction between teen and adult offenders means that any teen above 14 accused of a crime that would be a felony if an adult did it may face trial in adult court. For example, the creation, possession, and dissemination of child pornography are multiple felonies that carry severe sentences and require the accused to register as a sex offender upon conviction.
It is also worth noting that there are no statutes that specify the youngest age at which the court may declare a teen delinquent in Virginia. Furthermore, if the accused turns 21 before the commencement of prosecution, the individual shall be tried as an adult, according to Ann 16-1-242.
Once tried as an adult, the individual will face trial as an adult for all subsequent offenses.
Virginia sexting laws and sex offender registration
In Virginia, anyone convicted of crimes including child pornography, rape, object sexual penetration, aggravated sexual battery, and bestiality must register as a sex offender upon conviction. If the activity happens across state lines, the accused may have to register as a federal sex offender, the consequences of which may plague the accused for life.
Virginia sexting laws and the use of communication systems to facilitate certain offenses involving children
Under 18.2-374.3. it is unlawful to use a communication device or system to knowingly entice, solicit, or in any way to cause a child to quote
“Expose his sexual or genital parts to any child to whom he is not legally married or propose that any such child expose his sexual or genital parts to such person.”
Section C.3 of the statute reads quote:
“Propose to such child the performance of an act of sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus or any act constituting an offense under § 18.2-361“
Under the statute, soliciting or attempting to solicit sexual conduct from a minor is a class 5 felony if the accused is not seven years older than the child or victim. If the child is below fifteen and the accused is seven years older than the child, the punishment escalates into a prison sentence of not less than five years and -but not more than thirty years. The first five years are mandatory, meaning the accused is not eligible for parole, early release, or suspension of sentence.
Subsequent offenses are punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years and a maximum of forty years.
What to remember
- Soliciting sexual conduct from a minor younger than 15 with lascivious intent is a class 5 felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
- Repeat offenders must serve a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.
- Using social media, bulletin boards, or any other means of communication to solicit, attempt to, or conspire to solicit sexual conduct from a child are both state and federal felonies.
Virginia sexting laws and the use of profane, vulgar, obscene, lewd, lascivious, or indecent language
Unsolicited sexts or harassing phone calls constitute harassment in the state. Under 18.2-472, “use of profane, threatening, or indecent language over public airways or other methods.” Using a communication device to threaten, coerce, intimidate, or harass another is a class 1 misdemeanor.
A class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia is punishable by up to twelve months in jail and a $2500 fine.
Remember, the statute reads in part, quote:
“Over any telephone” includes, for purposes of this section, any electronically transmitted communication producing a visual or electronic message that is received or transmitted by cellular telephone or other wireless telecommunications devices.”
Virginia sexting laws and unlawful dissemination or sale of private images
Unlawful dissemination/revenge porn is a class 1 misdemeanor if the victim is above 18. If the victim is below 18, the act constitutes dissemination of child pornography. 18.2-386.2. “Unlawful dissemination or sale of images of another” works under the assumption that the person depicted had a reasonable expectation of privacy and did not consent to the dissemination.
Note that the act applies to both real and simulated acts. Meaning, disseminating sexualized photoshop images or deep-fakes of another person without consent violates the statute.
Note: victims of revenge porn may take civil action to recover monetary damages. We recommend consulting with an attorney immediately.
What to remember:
- Teen victims of sextortion may report the activity to the Justice Department’s Child exploitation and obscenity section (CEOS).
- Virginia’s revenge porn law only applies to adults.
Virginia sexting laws and display of child pornography or grooming video or materials to a child
State statute 18.2-374.4. makes it a class 6 felony for anyone above 18 to share or display pornography or grooming material to a child younger than 13. The statute works under the assumption that the accused intended to solicit, entice, or encourage the child to engage in sexual conduct.
Note that section B of the statute defines “grooming material” as any material, including cartoons, animations, or images depicting a person engaged in fondling of genitals or engaged in acts including fellatio, intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, or other sexual acts.
- 18.2-374.1:1 Possession, Reproduction, solicitation, and facilitation of child pornography.
- 18.2-374.3: use of communication systems to facilitate certain offenses involving children.
- 18.2-374.4: display of child pornography or grooming video or materials to a child
Other Virginia Laws