Teens sending nude photos to adults: the legal issue

January 13, 2021
Teens sending nude photos to adults: the legal issue

Relationships with large age disparities come under fire for various reasons. Other parties violate the couple’s privacy. Emotions flare up when a lover fails to meet expectations. Sometimes, these personal disputes might even result in child pornography charges.

There are strict laws and multiple jurisdictions that affect this issue. Convictions could result in severe penalties, including mandatory listing on the sex offender registry. A strong defense is usually necessary for these types of charges.

Missouri age of consent

According to Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, there is a relatively complex age of consent scheme in the Missouri statute. Those at the age of 17 or older may date and engage in sexual relationships with people above the age of 14. Those aged 14 to 17 may not consent to sex with anyone 21 or over.

Essentially, this leads to many teenagers in consensual sexual relationships — some between older teens and adults. This in itself is not a legal problem.

Federal child pornography laws

The legal problem happens when teens send their sexual partners nude photos. This is a developing area of criminal defense law.

The United States Department of Justice describes child pornography as sexualized imagery of minors. Federal law could apply in cases where the Internet is the method of transmission of the nude pictures — in other words, almost always.

Complex cases from the start

Most accused people are in over their heads from the beginning. Very few relationships these days occur without any transmission of sexualized content over the internet between partners — as mentioned above, this could make a legal relationship into a federal child pornography case.

Furthermore, even in applications with privacy features, such as disappearing messages, forensic researchers are sometimes able to recover traces of photographs, conversations and other evidence that could support a charge relating to child pornography. Even local police offices might have access to the technology necessary to do this.

People have some rights to privacy and to participate in legal, consensual relationships. However, sex-crime charges place these rights, along with the futures of the people involved in the relationship, under fire.


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