Sexting Laws in Wisconsin

By Reddin & Singer


With the rise of technology, it seems that everyone has a cell phone these days. While most people use their phones to make calls, send texts, and access social media accounts, there is a rise in the practice of ‘sexting,’ especially among teenagers. Sexting combines the words “sex” and “texting” to indicate a certain category of communication. Sexting is defined as the act of sending sexually explicit messages or images between cell phones. Sending nude or sexually suggestive photos would be considered sexting.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports that one in five teenagers have sent sexually suggestive, nude, or semi-nude text messages by phone or through some kind of online medium. While it is prevalent, it is no joke in the state of Wisconsin. Police and prosecutors often actively pursue cases against sexting.

In the state of Wisconsin, there is no separate statute that pertains to sexting. Instead, anyone who creates, distributes, or possesses an image of a minor engaged in a sexually explicit activity may be punished under the state’s child pornography laws. If convicted, the offender will typically need to serve a prison sentence and register as a sex offender in the state.

Teenagers who face child pornography charges due to sexting may be heard in juvenile court rather than in the adult criminal justice system. This changes the types of penalties that can be imposed on the perpetrator. Even in juvenile court, though, significant penalties are possible and it’s also important to note that adult court jurisdiction starts at 17. Adults who possess or view child pornography, including graphic content containing children on text messages, may face child pornography charges that can carry a punishment of a fine of up to $100,000 and up to 25 years in prison, or both.

In State of Wisconsin vs. Anthony R Stancl., an 18-year-old in a Wisconsin case was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he pleaded no contest to two felony charges of sexual abuse of a child. He was charged for an extortion scheme in which he fooled his male classmates by posing as a girl on Facebook and convinced them to send naked pictures of themselves. He then blackmailed his classmates, saying he would publicize the pictures if they didn’t have sex with him. Police had found over 300 explicit photos on the defendant’s computer as well as sexually explicit videos.

Sexting or any other online activity in which sexual content involving minors is transmitted can have very serious consequences for everyone involved. Adults and teens who face child pornography charges stemming from sexting should contact a qualified Milwaukee sex crimes attorney as soon as possible. At Reddin & Singer, we protect your rights and aim to protect your reputation as well. We understand that charges of this nature can be very stressful for you and your family, which is precisely why we will diligently advocate on your behalf. You can expect the utmost respect from our entire team. Please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at (414) 271-6400.