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Navigating Texas Laws Surrounding Sexting and Child Exploitation

Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages, photos, and videos through electronic devices like phones, computers, and tablets. It has become a widespread phenomenon that has, unfortunately, affected young people more.

In Texas, sexting involves minors and has been a subject of debate in recent years. This article will provide an overview of Texas sexting laws, the penalties for sexting, affirmative defenses in sexting cases, other charges related to sexting, and teenage or adult court for sexting cases in Texas.

What is considered sexting in Texas? Sexting in Texas involves sexual conduct between minors through text messages, photos, and videos sent via electronic devices.

Sexual conduct in this context refers to any type of sexual activity that can be viewed visually, produced by either the minor or an adult. Visual depictions of sexual conduct might include photos or videos of the child’s intimate parts or exposure of an adult’s sexual organ(s) to the child.

The Texas Penal Code defines sexual conduct as an act of sexual contact with a minor, including touching intimate parts of the child’s body (such as the breast, anus, or genitals) or causing the minor to touch the intimate parts of the adult’s body.

Penalties for sexting in Texas

The severity of penalties for sexting in Texas depends highly on the age of the individuals involved and the nature of evidence presented in court. For example, Class C misdemeanors may be charged for sexting between minors younger than age 18, while class A misdemeanors may be issued for sexual conduct by those younger than age 14.

Nevertheless, regardless of age, sexting between minors is criminally punishable. Additionally, distribution (sending, sharing, and/or publishing) or promotion of sext messages to other people can lead to more severe penalties such as a state jail felony.

Convicted individuals may serve time in jail, pay fines, be required to complete community service, or probation.

Affirmative defenses in Texas sexting cases

Sexting charges are not automatic in Texas, and some affirmative defenses to get acquitted in court are provided under the law. An affirmative defense is when the defendant disproves the allegation against them or raises arguments to justify their actions in line with the sections of the law.

Some affirmative defenses in a sexting case includes reasonable steps defense – if an individual took reasonable steps to destroy or delete sexually explicit messages or photos, or if the recipient did the same within six hours of receiving them. It will also be considered as a positive defense when the defendant can prove the nature of the sexual relationship as consensual – involving two minors with an age difference of fewer than two years, married individuals, or when the minor misrepresented their age as an adult.

Other charges related to sexting in Texas

Sexting can often be a gateway crime that leads to more severe charges such as child pornography. When individuals involved in sexting produce and disseminate images of themselves or others engaging in sexual activities, they become vulnerable to charges of child pornography.

Indecent exposure, sexual assault, and dissemination of harmful content to children could also attract felony charges because of the damage to the child’s mental and physical health.

Teen or adult court for sexting cases in Texas

Sexting charges among minors typically do not involve adult criminal courts except in the event of longer-term consequences to the young person, such as sex offender registration. In most cases, the juvenile court system handles sexting among minors.

However, adult courts could jump in to deal with serious juvenile offenders. When a minor faces charges for dissemination of sexual imagery among their peers, many factors determine whether they will be tried in adult court.

Ultimately, this decision is at the discretion of the prosecutor in charge of the case.


Sexting is a prevalent issue that affects young people. Like in many states, sexting in Texas is a criminal offense that carries heavy legal consequences.

Minors can get caught in the web of unnecessary charges attributed to sexting and may suffer long-term effects. It is crucial to stay informed of Texas laws surrounding the issue of sexting to take proactive measures to prevent its consequences.

Sexual Performance by a Child Laws in Texas

Sexual performance by a child is a serious offense considered as child exploitation by the Texas Penal Code. According to the law, sexual performance by a child in Texas includes recording, photographing, disseminating, and broadcasting live performances of an individual under the age of 18 engaging in sexual conduct.

Sexual conduct, in this context, refers to sodomy, oral sex, sexual contact with intimate body parts, and sexual intercourse. The law also covers any activity that depicts a child in a sexual manner, including graphic visual depictions, including anime, comics, and other forms of digital art.

Penalties for sexual performance by a child in Texas

The penalties for sexual performance by a child in Texas are severe, ranging from second-degree felony charges to first-degree felony charges. Producing, promoting, directing, or performing sexual activity by a minor is a second-degree felony offense, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a possible $10,000 fine.

A first-degree felony offense applies when an individual sells, distributes, purchases, or possesses visual depictions of the sexual performance of a child. The first-degree felony offense can carry a sentence of 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Affirmative defenses in sexual performance by a child cases

Defense attorneys may use several affirmative defenses to fight charges of sexual performance by a child. A common affirmative defense is the lack of knowledge defense when the individual accused was unaware of the age of the child at the time.

Others include consent defense, caregiver defense, and reasonable steps defense. Consent defense occurs in cases when the minor is 16 or 17 years old and provided consent for sexual activity.

However, the Texas Penal Code explicitly notes that sexual performance by a child, regardless of consent, is a criminal activity. Caregiver defense is used in cases when the accused is a caregiver to the minor, e.g., parent, guardian, or teacher, and has recorded the child’s activity for a legitimate reason, such as documentation of the child’s behavior for a mental or physical disability evaluation.

Reasonable steps defense involves attempting to eradicate or destroy the visual depictions of sexual performance by a child within six hours of receiving or obtaining them.

Juvenile or adult court for sexual performance by a child cases in Texas

Since sex crimes by juveniles are considered very sensitive, they are usually tried in the juvenile court system at the discretion of prosecutors. However, Texas law can allow for cases to be transferred to adult court considering the severity of the case.

In the adult court, the individual faces the likelihood of harsher penalties that come with the most serious charges associated with sexual performance by a child, including long-term probation and sex offender registration. Sale, Distribution or Display of Harmful Material to a Minor Laws in Texas

Sale, distribution, or display of harmful material to a minor is an offense in Texas that criminalizes the selling or supplying of sexually explicit materials to minors.

Sexual material in this context includes content that portrays or describes nudity, sex, or excretion. What is considered harmful material in Texas?

Harmful material in Texas is defined by the Texas Penal Code as content that exhibits or describes nudity, sexual activity, effluent, female breasts displayed in an explicit manner, and other deviant and offensive forms of sexual expression.

Penalties for sale, distribution, or display of harmful material to a minor in Texas

The penalties for selling, distributing, or displaying harmful materials to a minor can be a class A misdemeanor or a third-degree felony, depending on the circumstances.

Class A misdemeanors carry a penalty of up to one year in prison and a maximum $4,000 fine, while a third-degree felony can result in up to ten years in prison and up to $10,000 fines.

Online solicitation of a minor in Texas

The online solicitation of a minor is a criminal offense under Texas law. It is defined by the solicitation of sexual conduct over an electronic platform with a minor under the age of 17.

The offense can result in a third-degree felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Revenge porn laws in Texas

Revenge porn in Texas constitutes the dissemination of sexually explicit images or videos of an individual without their consent. The images or videos shared must also breach a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy.

This action is punishable under Texas law as a State Jail Felony, with sentences ranging up from 6 months to two years in jail depending on the gravity of the offense.


Sexual performance by a child, sale, distribution, or display of harmful material to a minor, online solicitation of a minor, and revenge porn are sexually-based crimes in Texas. Texas has stringent laws governing these offenses with significant penalties to ensure their effective curtailment.

It is advisable to be aware of the relevant laws and their penalties to avoid being on the wrong side of the law. In conclusion, understanding the laws surrounding sexting, sexual performance by a child, sale, distribution, or display of harmful material to a minor, and revenge porn is crucial to protect the well-being of young individuals and uphold their rights.

In Texas, sexting between minors can lead to misdemeanor charges, while sexual performance by a child and distribution of harmful material can result in felony charges. The affirmative defenses available in these cases provide some options for defense, but the consequences of these offenses can be severe, including prison time, fines, and potential sex offender registration.

It is vital for individuals to be aware of the laws to prevent engaging in criminal activities and to promote a safe and respectful digital environment for young people.

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