What is “Sexting?” Is It A Crime?

“Sexting” is the sending of sexually explicit messages, pictures, or videos over text messages or via other mobile apps. Consensual sexting between adults is perfectly legal in North Carolina. However, when minors are involved, sexting becomes a crime and can carry serious consequences. 

While North Carolina does not have a specific sexting law, sexting may fall under child pornography or revenge porn statutes in the state. Here, we discuss when sexting is a crime in North Carolina and what you can do to protect yourself. 

Teenage Sexting

Sending photos or videos of minors engaged in a sexual act is considered child pornography in North Carolina. While it is not a crime for consenting adults to send each other sext messages, it is a crime for an adult to sext with a minor (with or without the minor’s consent). 

Sexting between minors is also a crime. This means that even if teens are sexting each other, willingly, both can be charged with child pornography. In fact, two teenagers in North Carolina were charged a few years ago for exchanging nude selfies. Even though they were both sixteen years old and in a consenting relationship, they still faced felony child pornography charges. While they ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and were sentenced to probation, this just goes to show how even consenting teenagers can face consequences for sexting.

Teenagers and their parents should also be aware that, in some cases, teenagers can still be tried as adults in North Carolina, making these charges all the more severe.

Sexting Penalties

The penalties for child pornography in North Carolina are severe. They include: 

  • First-degree sexual exploitation of a minor (for production of child pornography)
    • Class C felony
    • Carries a sentence of up to seven years for first-time offenders
  • Second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor (for copying or distributing child pornography)
    • Class E felony
    • Carries a sentence of two to three years for first-time offenders
  • Third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor (for possession of child pornography)
    • Class H felony 
    • Carries a sentence of four to eight months for first-time offenders 

These charges usually also carry fines, probation, and the requirement to register as a sex offender. 

Sexting as a Type of Revenge Porn

While sexting between consenting adults is not a crime, sending sexually explicit images of another person to harass, intimidate, or humiliate them, is a crime. Under the state’s “revenge porn” statute (North Carolina G.S. § 14.190.5A), it is a Class H felony for adults to send this type of sext message. For minors, the punishment is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a first offense. 

Categories