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Juvenile Law

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Juvenile law is something that parents don’t often think to talk to their students about, but there are a few things that we, at Crime Stoppers, feel all students (and parents) need to be aware of. First of all, we are not lawyers, nor do we claim to be, but we do work with student all day, every day.

Through presenting to students regularly, we have found that students are often very confused, and even misinformed about the legal system. Because of that we want to encourage parents to research laws that pertain to the specific county you reside in so that you can begin having critical conversations about juvenile laws with your students. When talking with your students about juvenile laws it is important to remember that in the state of Texas, 17 is the legal age of adulthood. This means that 17 is when you can enter the adult legal system and is when you can go to adult jail/prison. It is also vital to approach conversations with the understanding that when it comes to juveniles, judges have a lot of say in what a student’s punishment or sentence will be. Because of that, it is really difficult to identify a specific punishment or expected sentence. Every juvenile case truly is different.

Age Affecting Criminal Responsibility

The age of affecting criminal responsibility in the state of Texas, as stated in Texas Penal Code 8.07, is 15. However, if you are between the ages of 10 and 15, the judge in your case CAN decide that you knew what you were doing was bad when you did it, and therefore you can be charged for whatever crime you committed. To us here at Crime Stoppers, and the way we like to message this law, is that at 10 you are eligible to have legal consequences for your actions. Meaning, if you are 10 or older, in the state of Texas, a judge CAN decide to charge you with a crime as a consequence for what you said or did in person or online.

Child Pornography

With that said, one of the biggest topics we get questions about when we are out presenting is what are the laws surrounding inappropriate pictures. Students are shocked to find out that they can get arrested simply for having an inappropriate image on their device. The laws about these kinds of images, which are considered child pornography, in the state of Texas, can get a bit confusing. Texas Penal Code 43.26 says:

“A person commits an offense if the person knowingly or intentionally possesses, or knowingly or intentionally accesses with intent to view, visual material that…depicts a child younger than 18 years of age…who is engaging in sexual conduct, including a child who engages in sexual conduct as a victim of an offense…”

Essentially what that means is that it is illegal to knowingly have a naked, partially naked, or even suggestive of being naked image/video of anyone under the age of 18 on ANY device. That kind of leads us right into the next part of this law. If you continue to read the penal code it gets very long and confusing so we won’t get too much more into that, but we do always encourage you to read the codes for yourself and to again, do your own research about the laws in your county. The next part of the law is the part that typically truly shocks students. What you and your student(s) need to know is this it is illegal for someone under the age of 18 to take an inappropriate picture of themselves or anyone else who is under 18. That is called creating child pornography. It is illegal for anyone to knowingly have an inappropriate picture of them or anyone else under 18 – that is possession of child pornography, and it is illegal to pass along an inappropriate picture of anyone under the age of 18 – that is called distribution of child pornography. Now, while all forms of child pornography are illegal, typically what we see is that distribution of child pornography gets a much heftier sentence than creating or possessing child pornography does.

There are so many other laws that are valuable for students and parent to know and discuss regularly. We hope the laws referenced here will spark conversation in your household, and that you will be encouraged to find out more about how to protect yourself and your student from ever entering the legal system.

Posted by Crime Stoppers of Houston Safe School Institute Team on 12 Aug 2019