Sexting is a term the media has given to the practice—usually among teens—of sending sexually explicit messages through a cell phone or via instant messenger. The advancement of technology has given cell phones astounding capabilities and many of them are now able to record and send photos and videos. One study finds that one-fifth of teens between the ages of 13 and 19 have sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves through a text or an online posting while a third of those between the ages of 20 and 26 have done so.
Teenage girls are more likely than teen boys to send suggestive photos of themselves out into cyberspace. On one hand adults shouldn’t necessarily be surprised about the sexting habits of teens given that young people have been exchanging sexually suggestive letters and messages for generations. The difference now lies in the technology and the fact that a photo shared between two people can quickly be splashed across the entire Internet, becoming an overnight phenomenon.
What Teens May Not Realize
Many teens feel they are simply sharing a suggestive photograph with a boyfriend or girlfriend and are shocked when those photos are shared with others. Worse, once a digital image is out there it cannot be taken back, and it leaves a digital footprint which can go on and on. Peer pressure is a factor in teen sexting as over half of all teen girls who have engaged in sexting cite pressure from teen boys. Only 18% of teen boys acknowledge pressure to engage in sexting behaviors leading experts to worry further about the power imbalances inherent in teen relationships.
Sexting is Illegal
Under federal law, sexting is illegal, falling under the “creation, distribution and possession of child pornography,” and is a felony offense. Many prosecutors are aggressively going after those taking the pictures as well as those possessing them, meaning a teen who merely received a suggestive text could find themselves in serious trouble. Some lawmakers are working to change the current laws, feeling they are applied unfairly. Most state’s pornography laws were in place well before the advent of cell phones and digital cameras, causing sexting to be lumped into the quite serious child pornography or child exploitation laws.
This means that a teen who thought they were doing something risqué but relative harmless could find themselves subject to a life of registration as a sex offender and could even be sentenced to jail time. The necessity of sex offender registration could lead to a lifetime of economic and social limitations for a teenager who simply made a stupid mistake. Some states mandate fines up to $100,000 and prison terms up to 20 years, although there are lesser fines and prison terms.
What to Do if You or Your Child Has Been Charged With Sexting
As a parent of a teen charged with sexting you may be extremely worried and confused and not know what you need to do to help your child save his or her future. You need a criminal defense attorney who can successfully stand up to an over-zealous prosecutor, fighting to have the charges dismissed. You don’t want a black mark following your teen for the rest of his or her life, changing the future forever. Sexting charges are extremely serious bringing prison, hefty fines and sex offender registration. Don’t wait, hoping the charges will go away, rather take control of your life or the life of your teen and hire a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who will take the charges seriously and fight hard for the rights and freedom of the accused.
In most states the theft statutes are fairly broad, covering many types of criminal conduct which involves the misuse of another person’s property. No matter the level of the theft crime you are charged with, one thing they all have in common is that property belonging to another was taken without their consent. The term property in this context, however, can also be broadly interpreted. For instance, under Texas law writing bad checks is also considered theft as are shoplifting, receiving stolen property, possessing stolen property, auto theft and a whole host of other thefts. The charges can range all the way from a class C misdemeanor—the equivalent of a traffic ticket—to a much more serious felony charge which could send you to prison for life. The level of the theft charges will be determined based on a number of factors including the item which was supposedly taken, whether force was used to take the item and whether or not you entered the home of another.
The Consequences of a Theft Conviction
Even a theft conviction at the minor end of the spectrum can still have a shattering effect on your life. You should never make the error of thinking a misdemeanor theft charge is not a very serious matter. Theft convictions are considered to be crimes of “moral turpitude,” meaning they are the sort of crime which reflects the character of a person. No matter what level of theft charges you are facing, a conviction could mean a permanent blot on your record, even if you are given probation rather than jail time. In today’s technological world, almost all employers will conduct a background check and a conviction for theft—whether misdemeanor or felony—can make it very difficult for you to obtain employment for the remainder of your life.
Felony theft charges can not only affect your future employment, but can also land you in prison for up to twenty years should you be convicted of entering another’s home in order to steal something. If you used force to take something such as property or cash it will likely be charged as a felony, and if you used a weapon you may be charged with aggravated robbery. A conviction for aggravated robbery could result in a lifetime prison sentence. As you can see, the penalties for the entire range of theft charges are extremely serious and potentially life-altering.
The Importance of Getting Experienced Legal Counsel
There is no substitute for hiring the most experienced criminal defense attorney you can to represent you and make sure your rights are fully protected. A knowledgeable attorney knows how to cover all the bases as soon as possible, giving you a solid defense. Your attorney will interview potential witnesses and will conduct interviews with the alleged victim. He will make early contact with the prosecutor, hopefully before formal charges have been filed. He will walk you through the bail requirements and prepare the necessary motions to have you released on your own recognizance.
Of course your attorney will seek to have the case dismissed, but if that is not possible he will ensure you have the most aggressive trial defense possible. Whatever you do, don’t dismiss your theft charges as insignificant or take them lightly. These are extremely serious charges, so speak with an attorney as soon as possible after you have been charged or feel you are about to be charged. Hiring an attorney is the best way to protect your future and allow you to return to your life without serious and far-reaching consequences. Don’t wait—call now.
Who Gets Charged With Domestic Violence?
Although no two family violence cases are alike, generally speaking domestic violence involves an assault or threat of assault by a person on a spouse, ex-spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend or any member of the family who resides in the same household. Emotions can run very high in cases involving those who love one another and those who find themselves charged with domestic violence come from all walks of life and from all socio-economic classes. One single episode of a family member losing his or her cool during an extremely stressful situation can end up in an arrest, criminal charges and potentially a lifetime of repercussions to deal with.
Although there are exceptions, in the majority of domestic violence charges the accused has never been in trouble before. It’s true that some people just have trouble controlling their temper and those anger issues should certainly be addressed. Likewise the husband who has spent years and years intimidating and physically assaulting his wife should definitely be on the receiving end of the legal system. In some cases, however, the accused is simply not guilty and has been falsely accused—a situation which is not all that uncommon. Many times a messy divorce or a troubled relationship makes one party attempt to get back at the other and make up allegations of violence. It is likewise a fairly common occurrence during child custody cases for one spouse to falsely accuse the other of violence simply to gain custody.
Allegations Lead to Arrest
Because of the widespread information regarding domestic violence the police officers can be quick to handcuff a person accused of domestic or family violence with very little real evidence to go on. The mere accusation from a family member of alleged domestic violence will likely result in charges being filed, and once the police arrive it’s a pretty sure bet they won’t leave alone. The police may feel they are covering themselves in the event they should leave the scene of an alleged violent event then one spouse ends up injured or dead later on. The problem with this tactic is that while the motivation is reasonable, the actions surely violate the presumption of innocence our nation is founded on.
Felony or Misdemeanor?
The underlying assault or aggravated assault charges will generally dictate the criminal classification of a domestic violence event. In other words if one spouse is alleged to have smacked the other with a frying pan, then they may be charged with aggravated assault as well as domestic violence. Should the accused have a prior conviction for domestic violence then a simple assault which would normally be charged as a misdemeanor could be bumped up to a felony. Further, any instance of domestic violence in which choking is alleged can make the assault charge into a felony assault charge.
Can the Charges be Dropped Once Made?
Once an allegation of domestic violence is made, it cannot be “taken back,” should the accuser have a change of heart. The state prosecutor will aggressively pursue the cases with or without the cooperation of the alleged victim. In the past, spouses were able to drop such charges if they changed their mind, and a spouse who didn’t wish to testify against the defendant could refuse. This would often leave the prosecutor with insufficient evidence to make the charges stick and he would be forced to drop all charges. The laws have changed substantially over the years and except in a few circumstance a spouse can be compelled to testify although they will have to be subpoenaed to do so.
Penalties for Domestic Violence
The person accused of domestic violence may be placed under a restraining order which prohibits him from returning home or even speaking to the victim. A first offense could get you up to a year in county jail while a second offense could result in felony charges and up to several years in prison. Beyond this a conviction will give you a lifelong criminal record which can alter your ability to get a job or obtain a professional license and you will likely not be able to own a firearm. If you’ve been charged with domestic violence don’t wait in hopes it will all go away. These are very serious charges and you need an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner from the very start.
When a person intentionally exposes their genitals to another person in an inappropriate manner they have engaged in indecent exposure which is a criminal act. Indecent exposure can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the conditions surrounding the offense. This means that a person who was caught urinating in public will likely be charged with a lesser level of indecent exposure—and receive a lesser penalty—than the person who has intent to expose themselves to others. While many feel that indecent exposure is not a serious crime it should, in fact, be taken quite seriously as it falls under sex crimes. In fact, a conviction for indecent exposure can have life-altering consequences, causing you to be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of your life.
How Does the Prosecutor Prove Indecent Exposure?
There are essentially three things the prosecutor must show in order to prove you committed the act of indecent exposure. First, he or she must show you exposed yourself intentionally. This means that if you happened to be swimming in a public pool, had a wardrobe malfunction and your swimming suit fell off, you cannot be charged with indecent exposure. Or suppose a group of young men were horsing around and one yanked the pants of another, exposing the unwitting person. Again, this is hardly intentional behavior and does not fall under purposely and intentionally exposing oneself. Second, the exposure must have taken place in public or in an area where other people were present and would likely be offended by the exposure. If you are walking around naked at a nudist camp, then obviously others will not be offended since they are likely doing the same thing.
If children witnessed the exposure it will be a bit more difficult—but not impossible. Even if you were in a public place if you were in an area you thought was out of the view of any bystanders, you cannot be found guilty of indecent exposure. Third, the prosecutor must prove specific intent—in other words you were deliberately and purposely calling attention to your genitals with a sexual intent. Intent is the most important element in proving or defending the charges of indecent exposure. Suppose an elderly man with prostate trouble ducked behind a bush to relieve himself, believing he was out of view from the public, yet someone spotted him. The element of intent is simply not present in such a situation. By the same token, “mooning” is not generally considered indecent exposure because it lacks the specific intent to expose the genitals just as showing one’s breasts, whether for a quick “thrill” or for breastfeeding does not qualify as indecent exposure.
Charges for Indecent Exposure
The crime of indecent exposure is considered a wobbler meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. While it may seem that a misdemeanor charge for indecent exposure wouldn’t be all that serious, if you are convicted for simple misdemeanor indecent exposure you may still be required to register as a sex offender. If you find yourself facing felony indecent exposure in addition to being required to register as a sex offender you could face from months to as many as three years in a state prison as well as having a fine as high as $10,000 assessed.
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney could mean the difference in a conviction and a dismissal, and that difference leads to the difference between going back to your normal life and having to register as a sex offender. Your attorney may argue accidental exposure, mistaken identity, may bring in an alibi witness for you, may claim voluntary intoxication or may argue that the exposure was for a purpose other than sexual exhibition. Whatever you do, don’t take indecent exposure charges lightly. Hire an attorney immediately who can protect your future and your rights.