Attention High School Students: Sexting May Constitute Child Pornography

Recent studies show that teenagers use their cell phones more frequently than adults. Teenagers also text message more, use social media more often, and buy more apps. What is probably not surprising to anyone is that this trend has a tremendous impact on how teenagers interact with each other.

Cellphones are the means to which teenagers maintain and enhance relationships. A perfect example is “sexting.” Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages between cellphones. About 20% of teenagers report sending nude photographs and nearly 40% have sent sexually suggestive messages. Arizona now has a sexting-specific law that addresses minors and sexually explicit messages sent via text. Both parents and teenagers should understand the legal repercussions of participating in this growing trend.

Arizona’s Minor Sexting Law

A.R.S. §13-3553 provides:

A person commits sexual exploitation of a minor by knowingly:

  1. Recording, filming, photographing, developing or duplicating any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct. Distributing, transporting, exhibiting, receiving, selling, purchasing, electronically transmitting, possessing or exchanging any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct.

What this law means is that minors who engage in sexting with another minor could face criminal charges. Sexual material is defined as material that shows human genitalia, nudity, sexual activity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse. Receiving the image or video is enough to violate this statute. In fact, simply possessing it even without knowing is a crime. For example, if your teenager uploads images or videos to your computer, you would be in violation of this statute by possession.


  • Distributing the sexually explicit image to one person
    • Charge: Petty Offense
  • Distributing the sexually explicit to more than one person
    • Charge: Class 3 Misdemeanor
    • Punishment: Up to 30 days in jail and/or $500 fine
  • Repeat offenders
    • Class 2 Misdemeanor
    • Punishment: Up to 4 months in jail and/or $750 fine
  • Individuals over the age of 18 who send, receive, and/or distribute sexually explicit material involving a minor
    • Class 2 Felony
    • Punishment: Depending on the circumstances, 5 to 24 years imprisonment

How To Avoid Criminal Liability

Minors will not face criminal prosecution if the minor:

  • Does not solicit the message;
  • Destroys, deletes, or eliminates the sexually explicit image;
  • Reports the message to a parent, guardian, school, or law enforcement; and
  • Does not forward the message

Call Ariano & Reppucci Now

The sexting fad among high school students is steadily growing. Thus, parents should be cautious as to how engaged their children are with their cellphones in regards to social interaction. Teenagers should also be aware of the charges and punishments they face. Being charged with sexual exploitation or child pornography is a serious offense with unforgiving punishments, not to mention the social stigma that comes with it. Call Ariano & Reppucci now for a free consultation to get your issue resolved.