If you’re a fan of dating apps, listen up. Just this month, a new law has banned sending explicit messages without consent. Sexting has become a part of the relationship landscape, for better or worse, in the age of high-speed internet and quality cameras on web-capable devices. Until now, no legal mechanism existed to regulate explicit messaging.
Rep. Morgan Meyer, the bill’s author, likened the new law to similar statutes preventing public indecency. Though it’s often discussed as the “sexting” bill, HB 2789 covers all forms of electronic communication, including email and social media. If you enjoy sending and receiving intimate messages, make sure you fully understand the law so you can avoid running afoul of it.
What Constitutes Illegal Sexting?
HB 2789 doesn’t make it illegal to send explicit images or videos via electronic communications, but under the new law, you cannot do so unless your partner either:
- Requests the images, or
- Explicitly consents to receive them
The law covers “visual content” only, so written messages cannot run afoul of this law no matter what they say. The law only bars content that displays outright sexual activity or shows one’s “intimate parts.” If someone attempts to bring charges against you for messages without multimedia elements, or for photos and/or videos that do not meet this definition of explicit, you have strong standing to fight back against the charges.
Keep in mind that this law does not override existing statutes regarding the transmission of explicit material. It remains against Texas law to send inappropriate messages to minors regardless of their consent.
Is the New Sexting Law Unconstitutional?
You may have heard rumors that the Supreme Court will invalidate Texas’ new sexting law for violating the First Amendment. That may come to pass—but don’t count on a Supreme Court decision as to your line of defense. Cases may take years to reach the Supreme Court, and there is no guarantee the court will decide to take any specific case, much less pass the judgment you are hoping for. After all, Supreme Court opinions have not always favored obscene content. We advise you to work with a lawyer to construct a strong, multi-pronged defense so you have the best chance of prevailing in court.
Another New Law: “Indecent Assault”
Along with codifying rules for electronic communications, the Texas legislature passed SB 194 to define indecent assault, a category of behaviors that do not meet the standard for sexual assault but may be unwelcome. SB 194 addresses sexual contact or non-consensual exposure to another’s intimate parts.
Before SB 194 was signed into law, there was no legal grey area around what was considered sexual assault. As long as no intercourse occurred, you could not be accused of a crime. With the arrival of SB 149, the law has opened new avenues for accusations. It is interesting to note that the definition of “indecent assault” takes one’s intentions into account, which may help protect you from unfounded accusations.
Criminal convictions can change your life—especially when you’re being tried for sex crimes. As Texas law continues to change, make sure you know how to defend yourself should you end up in this unfortunate position. Our team at the LaHood Norton Law Group provides a tireless defense to help counteract the stigma that comes with sex crime accusations. You are constitutionally guaranteed a defense when you have been accused of a crime. Make sure you work with a lawyer who can protect your rights and fight for your best interests.