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If your child has been accused of criminal sexual conduct, it can be difficult to know what to do next.

Will they be treated like an adult in court? Will they have to register on the sex offender registry if convicted? Who can protect them?

Regardless of who made the accusation against your child and what they’re being charged with, you should hire a juvenile criminal sexual conduct defense lawyer in Michigan as soon as you can. Not only can an attorney with experience with these types of cases help you and your child understand the charges and potential consequences but also craft a defense that will land the best possible outcome for your child.

Criminal charges that can arise from sexting

Some states have adopted specific legislation to deal with sexting, but Michigan is not one of them.

In Michigan, making, distributing, and possessing sexually explicit photos of a minor therefore fall under the category of child pornography, and a charge for sexting can be treated as manufacturing child pornography, receiving child pornography and disseminating child pornography.

What are the penalties in Michigan?

If a sexting act leads to a conviction, the penalties can be incredibly severe – from fines to serious prison time.

  • Up to 20 years in prison,
  • A fine of up to $100,000, or
  • Both
  • Up to 7 years in prison,
  • A fine up to $50,000, or
  • Both
  • Up to 4 years in prison,
  • A fine of up to $10,000, or
  • Both

Obscenity Charges

  • No more than one year in jail,
  • A fine of not more than $100,000, or
  • Both
  • Punished more severely
  • May include fines as high as $5,000,000.

Sex Offender Registration

Under Michigan law, if someone is convicted of either child pornography or obscene material featuring minors, they are required to register as a sex offender. The law is different for individuals 16 and under, but you will need to speak to a qualified defense attorney to determine if registration on the sex offender registry could be an issue. For those who do have to register, the length of time they are required to register for varies according to their conviction, and they will have to provide the police with their name, contact information, and photo while they are registered. In Michigan, much of that information is available to the public but there is also a private sex offender registry that juveniles can get placed on for life.

What if a juvenile is charged with sexting?

This matter becomes increasingly complicated when you take into account the number of teenagers who engage in sexting. Some estimates claim that one in five teenagers have sent nude or suggestive photos of themselves to another party.

So how does the law deal with a minor who takes, distributes, or possesses nude photos of themselves or another, or convinces another minor to take these types of photos of themselves?

Unfortunately, Michigan law has no specifications for minors who commit these acts. For example, if an 18 year old boy asks a 16 year old girl for nude photos and she send them to him, the boy could be charged with persuading the girl to make child pornography, in addition to possession of the photos. The girl could be charged with making and distributing child pornography – even though the photos are of her.

Additionally, because the distribution of these photos or messages can be done so quickly and easily, it could very well lead to harassment and bullying. So young people who share these types of photos could not only face consequences at school for bullying, but also face a harassment charge from law enforcement. In many cases, when photos are sent consensually, the sender claims they were harassed into sexting to avoid getting in trouble themselves when the pictures are discovered.

If the police come asking for your child's phone without a warrant, you have the right to say no. Your immediate next step should be to contact an experienced Michigan sexting defense attorney.

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