Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
In these days of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and with a smart phone in the pocket of just about every teenager in America, it is no wonder that we have seen an explosion in cases involving sexually explicit photographs of minors. Most of these cases involve photos exchanged voluntarily that end up being distributed more widely. If a person photographs a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, or simply invites a minor to take such a photograph, they may be charged with Sexual Exploitation of a Minor. At the Meryhew Law Group we have extensive experience working with these cases and have achieved a track record of proven results.Sexting Can Be a Crime
“Sexting” (the sending of sexually explicit photos via text message) has become very commonplace in social media, and in our public and private schools. Many young people view modesty as old-fashioned, or just don’t think through the consequences of their choices. As a result, they end up sending very explicit photos of themselves to friends, people they are dating and others. But once that photo is sent it is very difficult to control what happens to it, and all too often a jilted ex or a former friend distributes these images to others. If a person suggests, invites, authorizes, or permits a minor to send them a sexually explicit image, or even if you receive one unsolicited, you could be charged with a very serious crime.
Technically these images qualify as Child Pornography as well, but most Prosecutors do not bring this charge in cases involving voluntary photos taken by minors themselves. But an adult who engages in this kind of behavior could well face Child Pornography charges as well as Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.The Elements of Sexual Exploitation of Minor — What the Government Has to Prove
There are a couple of ways to be found guilty of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.
- If you threaten or force a minor to behave sexually while being photographed, videotaped or as part of a live performance.
- If you “aid, invite, employ, authorize or cause” a minor to behave sexually while being photographed, videotaped or as part of a live performance.
- If you are a parent, legal guardian or otherwise have custody of a child and you allow them to behave sexually while being photographed, videotaped or as part of a live performance.
Sexual Exploitation of a Minor is a serious crime that has a minimum sentence of 31 – 41 months for a single incident, as well as three years of probation and at least ten years as a registered sex offender. For multiple counts the sentence range can go as high as 120 months in prison for this offense in State court.Defenses to Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
There are very limited defenses to this charge if the person involved turns out to be a minor, even if you did not realize that person was a minor. The only defense under the law to this charge is that you took steps to make sure of the person’s real age before you took, sent, or invited the taking of sexually explicit photos, videos, or a live performance. In order to prevail with this defense, the person must prove that at the time of the events they asked for and saw a driver’s license, marriage certificate, birth certificate or governmental or student identification. The person cannot rely solely on the oral representations of the person or the apparent age of the person and must ask for identification. It isn’t easy or even possible to check someone’s driver’s license over the internet, but that is what the law requires to prove this defense. The fact is you have to rely on the person’s oral allegations or apparent age when chatting on the internet or even while text messaging.The Definition of Sexually Explicit Conduct — What Is Prohibited?
The fact is that the law defines a very broad range of images as sexually explicit, and almost any photos or videos of a nude child could meet the definition. The definition includes:
- Actual or simulated sexual intercourse of any type between humans or animals.
- Penetrating the vagina or rectum with any body part or object.
- Sadomasochistic abuse of any person.
- Feces or urine when done for sexual gratification.
- Any depiction of the genitals or unclothed pubic or rectal areas of a minor, or the bare breast of a female minor, when the image is for the sexual stimulation of the person viewing it.
- Any touching of a person’s unclothed or clothed pubic area, genitals, buttocks or breast area when the image is for the sexual stimulation of the person viewing it.
Even the mere depiction of a child’s unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks of breast can be sufficient to meet the test of "sexually explicit conduct" if the picture is deemed to be for the purposes of the sexual stimulation of the viewer. As you can imagine, depending on the intent of the person viewing the material, even the candid shots of your own children in the bathtub might meet this definition.Potential Federal Charges: Production of Child Pornography or Enticing a Minor
Sexual Exploitation of a Minor is a very serious offense, but the same behavior can be treated much more harshly if charges are brought in Federal Court for activity that crosses state lines, as most internet interactions do. If the minor who is persuaded to engage in sexual activity online or in the ways described above, and that communication crosses state lines, then a person can be charged with very serious Federal crimes. At the Meryhew Law Group we have extensive experience representing clients in State and Federal Court.
The crimes that can be charged if your case is selected for Federal Prosecuting include:
Enticing a Minor. Under 18 US Code Section 2422 (b) Whoever, using the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce, or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States knowingly persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any individual who has not attained the age of 18 years, to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than 10 years or for life.
Production of Child Pornography. Under 18 US Code Section 2252 a person who knowingly produces with intent to distribute, or distributes, by any means, including a computer, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, child pornography that is an adapted or modified depiction of an identifiable minor shall be imprisoned for not less than 15 years nor more than 40 years.Contact a Seattle Sexual Exploitation of a Minor Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, or if you are being investigated for this offense, the stakes are too high to rely on anyone other than an experienced, respected, and aggressive attorney. At The Meryhew Law Group we have been working with clients charged with this offense for many years with proven results. Call us today for a free initial consultation.