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The term “sexting” has come into common usage in recent years. Sexting refers to both sending and receiving sexually explicit content via text message. Despite the prevalence of sexting today, engaging in a sexting conversation can have severe legal consequences under California law. 

To speak with one of our experienced San Diego sex crimes defense lawyers, please don’t hesitate to call (619) 234-2300 or send us an online message.

Is Sexting Unlawful in California?

Sending sexually explicit text messages between two consenting adults, meaning individuals 18 or older, is not illegal in California.

Sexting with an individual under the age of 18, however, is illegal.

An adult who sexts with a minor, or a minor who sexts with another minor, can be prosecuted under state child pornography and solicitation of a minor laws. 

Solicitation of a Child and Child Pornography Laws in California

If you were caught sexting with a minor, you may be prosecuted under a number of different state laws, most commonly sending harmful material to a minor, solicitation of a child, and child pornography laws. 

Sexting with a Child

Under California Penal Code section 288.2, it is illegal to send sexually explicit content to a minor with the intent to seduce and/or arouse the minor and to arouse yourself.

Individuals charged under this law are also often charged with solicitation of a minor. A sexual encounter or meeting between an adult and a minor often begins with the exchange of sexually explicit text messages. 

Solicitation of a Child 

Under California Penal Code section 288.4, attempting to arrange a sexual encounter with a minor via text message or other internet communication is considered solicitation of a minor.

If you were caught sexting with a child, you may be charged under this statute in conjunction with Penal Code section 288.2, sending harmful material to a minor. This is because arranging a sexual encounter with a minor often involves sending sexually explicit text messages. 

Call or fill out the form to arrange a free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced San Diego sex offense attorney.

Child Pornography 

In California, child pornography includes any matter or material showing sexual conduct by a person under the age of 18. Specific to sexing, it is illegal to send such content to a minor and also to maintain or keep child pornography received from a minor. 

What Are the State Penalties for Sexting in the State of California?

The penalties for sexting with a minor depend on whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or felony.

Both child pornography and solicitation of a minor charges are wobbler offenses, meaning they can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony. How the state chooses to charge the offense depends on the specific circumstances of the case, including the defendant’s criminal history. 

Punishment for Solicitation of a Minor in San Diego

If you are convicted of solicitation of a minor in San Diego County for sexting, you face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if the charge is a misdemeanor.

If charged as a felony, solicitation of a minor can result in up to three years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Whether you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony under this law, you will be required to register as a sex offender with California’s sex offender registry. 

Punishment for Child Pornography in San Diego

A misdemeanor child pornography conviction in California carries up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

Felony child pornography convictions can result in up to three years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines (and up to six years in prison if the defendant has a prior conviction for the same offense). Individuals convicted under child pornography laws must register with California’s sex offender registry. 

Hire an Experienced San Diego Sex Offense Attorney

If you are facing charges under child pornography or solicitation of a minor laws in California, you should contact a San Diego sex offense attorney immediately. These charges can have lifelong consequences.

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, have a strong record of exonerating clients and having false charges dismissed. We approach each case with compassion and dedication.

Contact us or call our firm at (619) 234-2300 today for a free confidential case review. Our goal is to get the best outcome for your case. 

Where You Can Find Our San Diego Office

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Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.