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Is Sexting Legal in Arizona?

Posted on December 8, 2023 in Sex Crimes

“Sexting,” or sending sexually explicit text messages or images, is not a crime in Arizona when it takes place between two consenting adults. However, if sexts are sent to or from a minor under the age of 18 or one of the adults does not consent to receive a sext message, it could be considered harassment or another sexual offense.

When Is Sexting a Crime?

Sending explicit text messages or images by cell phone or messenger is generally not a crime in Arizona when between two consenting adults over the age of 18. Two adults who are in a romantic or sexual relationship can send and receive sext messages freely as long as both parties consent to the messages. However, certain forms of sexting can constitute various sex crimes in Arizona in certain circumstances.

Examples include:

  • Sexting with a minor: it is against the law in Arizona to engage in sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 18, including via electronic device or text message. Sending sext messages to a minor could be viewed as child sexual abuse if one of the parties is over the age of 18.
  • Sexting between two minors: even if both parties are minors, the teens involved in sexting could be subject to a class 2 or 3 misdemeanor. Arizona Revised Statutes Section (ARS) 8-309 specifically bans juveniles from using an electronic communication device to send or display a visual depiction of a minor involved in explicit sexual material.
  • Nude images of a minor: ARS 13-3553 defines sending, receiving or distributing nude images of a minor as child pornography or sexual exploitation of a minor. Knowingly photographing, electronically transmitting or possessing any visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexual conduct or exploitive exhibition can meet the definition of child pornography.
  • Sending unsolicited sexts: if both parties do not consent to the sexualized messages, the sender could be charged with a crime such as sexual harassment, stalking or cyberbullying. In addition, if nude images of one party are circulated by an ex-spouse without that party’s consent, it could be a crime known as “revenge porn.”
  • Using sexting as coercion or blackmail: threatening to use sexually explicit or nude images of someone against them for monetary gains, sexual favors or other benefits is a crime known as sexual extortion (ARS 13-1428). Also known as “sextortion,” this form of sexting can result in a class 3 or class 2 felony charge in Arizona.

Sexting can get either party into a great deal of trouble under the wrong circumstances. For this reason, it is best to avoid sending or receiving any type of sexually explicit message or image. Crimes involving sexting can range from petty offenses to serious felonies, punishable with fines and even jail time. Sexting crimes involving minors or juveniles are penalized especially harshly in Arizona.

Are You Facing Criminal Charges for Sexting in Arizona?

If you or your teen is facing criminal charges in Arizona for sexting, contact a criminal defense lawyer at AZ Defenders right away for help. We can customize a defense strategy to protect you from what may be substantial penalties associated with a sex crime conviction. Our attorneys will work relentlessly to minimize the charges and penalties you face during a sexting criminal case. We will help you navigate the law in Arizona and protect your future as much as possible. Call (480) 908-9321 today for a free and confidential case review.