Laws Pertaining to Sexting in the Commonwealth of VA

Currently, the Commonwealth of Virginia could prosecute Virginia individuals, regardless of age, who are caught creating, distributing or possessing sexually explicit images of a minor under the State’s child pornography laws. Each action (creation, distribution, and possession) are independent of each other and can result in up to 3 separate felony charges. If convicted, individuals will generally be required to register as a sex offender

Legislative Summary

In general, the distribution, possession or creation of an image containing a minor engaged in a sexual activity would constitute a felony under the Virginia child pornography statute. Exceptions to the law for minors do not exist and as such two minors who send each other sexually explicit images of themselves could be prosecuted under the Commonwealth’s child pornography laws and if convicted, receive jail time and will generally need to register as a sex offender.

Law and Punishment

Virginia has three separate child pornography statutes (Production of Child Pornography, Possession of Child Pornography, and Distribution of Child Pornography) which prosecutors may use to punish individuals caught sexting.

  • Production of Child Pornography.
    • Enticing a minor to be the subject of an image.
      • It does not matter if the minor consents to the image.
    • Producing or preparing or attempting to take an explicit image of a minor.
    • Knowing participates in the production of an image.
    • Knowingly finance the image.
      • Just lending a phone that is used to take an image could be enough.
    • Punishable by up to 20 years in prison if the minor is 15 years or older.
    • If the minor is under 15 years old then up to 30 years in prison.
  • Possession of Child Pornography.
    • Any person who knowingly possesses child pornography is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
    • Conviction under the statute can result in up to 5 years in prison.
  • Distribution of Child Pornography
    • Any person who reproduces by any means, including by computer, sells, gives away, distributes, electronically transmits, displays with lascivious intent, purchases, or possesses with intent to sell, give away, distribute, transmit, or display child pornography with lascivious intent.
    • Punishable of up to 20 years in prison.

As of now it does not appear that Virginia will have a separate sexting statute like other states have begun to do. However, many times when the sexting occurs between minors, prosecutors have been charging the minors with misdemeanor obscenity offenses. That is not to say however, that given the right circumstances that the child pornography statutes could not be used.

sobering reality

Class 6 felony.

Up to 20 years in jail.

Register as a sex offender.

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