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What is sexting and how is it handled?

Simply put, sexting is when one person, usually via instant message or other electronic media, sends a sexually explicit image of himself or herself to at least one other person, usually a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Between consenting adults, sexting may well be a private act that is not criminal. However, minor children, including teenagers, are legally not allowed to engage in sexting in Arizona, even if it is with each other. A grown man or woman who is caught sending explicit images to an underage child will obvious face serious legal consequences as well.

Despite it not being allowed, many teenagers make the decision to engage in sexting, oftentimes because of some circumstances that are difficult or even not entirely in the teen's control. If the sexting only happens between two juveniles, then they will likely each have to pay a fine.

However, if the message gets forwarded at all or in other circumstances, sexting can be a misdemeanor offense. For a juvenile, this could mean having to appear in juvenile court and go through the juvenile justice process. Because judges have more flexibility in juvenile cases, the fact the offense is a misdemeanor may not affect the outcome of the case as much as it would were the accused an adult.

There are legal defenses available to a juvenile who is accused of sexting. Moreover, the child has the same rights as do other citizens of this state. For instance, the police cannot simply search a juvenile's phone at random; he or she would need a warrant or some other legal justification for doing so. For this reason, it may be helpful for a child and the child's parents to seek out the help of an experienced juvenile defense counsel.

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