Is “Sexting” Illegal in Minnesota?

Sending and receiving sexually explicit photos and videos through electronic means, commonly referred to as “sexting,” has become a common occurrence in this country. Many states across the US have passed laws regarding sexting, though Minnesota has not. However, that does not mean a person will not get in trouble for sexting, particularly if one or more person involved is a minor. We want to take a closer look at this issue, including what charges a person could face when sexting in Minnesota.

What is ‘Sexting?’

The term “sexting” is a play on words between sex and texting. This involves sending digital images, videos, text messages, or emails, and it usually involves cellphones or some other internet-capable device.

Between two consenting adults, sexting is legal. However, it should be noted that these images, videos, and messages do not disappear. While two people may be in a relationship when they send these explicit messages, those same messages could also be used against them in the future. In general, it is not recommended to send any kind of sexually explicit materials over electronic messages, no matter how close you are to the other person.

When sexting becomes Illegal in Minnesota

While the act of sexting between two consenting adults is legal in Minnesota, there are times when it could become illegal. Studies have shown that sexting is prevalent among teens and young adults, with a report in JAMA Pediatrics showing that 1-in-7 teens reported sending a sext and 1-in-4 receiving a sext.

Under Minnesota law, it is a crime to make any sexually explicit material involving someone under the age of 18. Nobody can direct a child under 18 to engage in the making of sexually explicit material. It is also a crime to possesses or distribute this material.

This can become a crime in various ways and could result in a person being charged with possession or sharing of child pornography. Even if all participants involved are under the age of 18, they still cannot possess sexually explicit videos. A person could be charged with simply having sexting images or videos on their phone, even if they do not send the material to anyone.

The creation of child pornography is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000. Possession of child pornography is punishable by up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. In many cases, a person found guilty of creation or possession of child pornography will also have to register as a sex offender in Minnesota.

What about “revenge porn?”

When you share a sexually explicit video or photo of yourself with someone you are in a relationship with, you never expect that it will be used against you. However, when the relationship turns sour, there is a chance that your former lover could try to ruin your reputation by sharing that material online for the world to see. This has been termed “revenge porn.” This is a cybercrime and is illegal in the state of Minnesota.

In 2016, Minnesota outlawed revenge porn with a law called “Nonconsensual Dissemination of Private Sexual Images.” Breaking the law is a misdemeanor offense and is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. There are several aggravating factors that could result in revenge porn becoming a felony.