Underage sexting is when an adult shares or participates in an exchange of sexually explicit content with a minor in the form of images or text. It is a crime for an adult to “sext” with a minor, which is anyone under 18. Explicit content is often sent to entrap an adult and subject them to extortion. Crimes can also occur when an adult sends content to coerce a minor.
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With the ever-increasing popularity of online dating and “hookup” websites and applications, it’s no wonder that these platforms have become popular with scam artists. Our Nashville law firm has been seeing an increase in setups and scams associated with underage sexting, and the perpetrators can be surprisingly sophisticated. If you find yourself in a scenario similar to what is described in this article, it would be very advisable to get your situation evaluated by a criminal attorney.
So here’s the common scenario involved in the setup: You’ve been talking to someone online who appears to be at least 18 years old. You’ve also sent pictures or suggestive messages with the other individual, and suddenly things change drastically. The individual you’re talking to reveals they are a minor. At this point, there are one of three most likely realities:
- The person with whom you’ve been speaking is in fact a minor, but not involved in a setup.
- The person is in fact a minor, and someone claiming to be their parent reaches out to you and threatens to go to the authorities if you don’t pay some sum of money.
- The person with whom you’ve been speaking is not in fact a minor, but nevertheless pretends to be one with the purpose of extorting money out of you.
Regardless of the actual reality, if you think you’ve fallen victim to a setup or scam involving a minor on an online dating or hookup platform, you need to proceed carefully and get some legal advice fast. You should also immediately cease all communication with the alleged minor or anyone associated with them because, the simple truth is, none of the possibilities are ideal, and how you react makes all the difference. Moreover, it is often difficult to know which of these scenarios is actually applicable to your situation at the time.
These “underage sexting” setups (as in scenarios (2) and (3) above) follow a similar pattern and may or may not involve an actual minor.
- Almost immediately after engaging in a conversation on a dating app or online forum with a young woman or man who claims to be 18 or over, he or she asks for your phone number so they can text you.
- The person wants to exchange pictures via texting, and it doesn’t take long before he or she sends a sext or nude photograph and asks for you to send a nude photograph. He or she will sometimes say he or she is a couple of weeks away from turning 18 and then sends a sext. Some respond thinking “why not”—after all, the person will be 18 very soon.
- Within a day after you exchange these texts, you receive a call from someone claiming to be the “minor’s” father and threatening to take action against you, saying that the person you are communicating with is under 18 years of age.
- The “father” always claims some reason why this experience is costing him money, usually over $1,000. Some say that the “minor” needs therapy or they need to replace a smartphone or computer that was used to send/receive the sexts. Sometimes he seems be very respectful and on your side but has to appease the “minor’s” upset mother, and other times the “father” is angry and trying to scare you.
It should go without saying – Communicating with a minor in a sexually explicit manner is against the law and carries significant consequences, including incarceration, registration on the sex offender list, and a significant amount of financial and emotional burden. Assuming you did not know or had no reason to know the individual was a minor, you already have a defense to charges related to underage sexting. The law requires that for a person to be convicted of soliciting, attempting, or having sex with a minor, one must know or have reason to know that the other person is indeed a minor.
If you find yourself being threatened by a minor – Or his or her parent, with prosecution unless you pay money or cooperate with their demands otherwise, you are now a victim of extortion. In no uncertain terms, whatever they are demanding from you to avoid them pressing charges is an illegal act in and of itself. Even if you knew that the individual with whom you were speaking was a minor, extortion is not an allowable form of retaliation. In this situation, you are now a potential criminal defendant and a victim of the crime of extortion.
If the person with whom you were communicating is not a minor – You, fortunately, do not face the burden of having committed a serious criminal offense, but you nonetheless are faced with the issue of dealing with an extortion attempt. Even if the individual is not a minor but you had reason to think that the person was a minor, you could face criminal prosecution. If, however, you did not know or have reason to know that the person was a minor and the whole matter is a setup to extort money out of you, do not respond to their demands. You should seek the professional guidance of an attorney to assist you in this predicament because of the endless possibility of unknown facts and variables involved in this type of situation.
Every day, innocent people fall victim to scam artists – On the internet, including situations involving minors—real or fake. Neither the alleged minor, their parent, nor the authorities have your best interests in mind in situations as described above. Hiring an attorney is not just the safest, but also the smartest way to protect your rights, find a solution, and help counsel you through this difficult time.
The information you obtain from this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
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