Nevada teens may not be arrested for texting a nude selfie

Sending and receiving nude pictures of teens is illegal, but Nevada minors who are found guilty may be placed under supervision for the first offense.

Over the last couple of decades, the way middle school and high school teens in Nevada communicate has changed radically, although most are still using phones. According to the Pew Research Center, cellphone use is so prevalent, only 12 percent of teens under the age of 18 report being without one. Of the 88 percent who own or have access to a cellphone, 91 percent communicate through text messaging.

Many teens send pictures of themselves, or selfies, to their friends, an activity that can be harmless. However, when a teenager sends nude photographs to another teenager, it becomes a legal matter.

Is it illegal to text nude pictures of teens?

The National District Attorney Association explains that it is illegal to possess a photograph of a minor 15 years old or younger who is being portrayed in a sexual way, and it is a child pornography charge. For an adult, this crime is a category B felony for the first offense. When minors send nude pictures of themselves, the activity is not necessarily a criminal offense the first time.

According to the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau, the first time a minor sends a “selfie” that is sexually explicit, he or she is not considered delinquent and does not have to register as a sex offender. However, if the minor sends a nude picture of another teen, he or she may be guilty of committing a delinquent act and be considered a “child in need of supervision” by the state’s juvenile justice system.

What are the penalties for teens who send or possess nude pictures?

According to the Research Division of the Nevada Legislature, a teen in need of supervision would be watched for up to 180 days. The supervision would be conducted by a probation officer, and the minor may also be required to do community service.

However, the district attorney would have to provide approval of supervision by the probation officer in writing, if the act in question would be considered a felony or gross misdemeanor in an adult system. Additionally, the child would have had to voluntarily admitted to committing the act. If the petition for supervision is not granted, the minor could end up under court supervision, instead. The judge may not require the case to go to trial if the child’s parent, the district attorney and the probation officer agree that it is not necessary.

Teens have the right to legal representation when they are charged with possession of a sexually explicit photograph of a minor. A criminal defense attorney may be able to provide assistance to middle school and high school students who have been accused of sexting.