Nowadays, many minors have smartphones, and those smartphones have cameras. Access to such devices allows those under 17 years of age to take photos of themselves – selfies – and send them off to others. If the photos or videos contain explicit images, anyone who possesses them could be charged with a crime.
Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
Iowa law makes it illegal for you to knowingly have in your possession an image depicting a minor engaged in a prohibited sexual act. You could also be charged with an offense if the photo or video you have shows the minor simulating a prohibited sexual act. That means you could be prosecuted and potentially convicted of a crime if a minor sends you a photo and you do not report it but keep it for yourself.
The first time you engage in such conduct, you could be charged with an aggravated misdemeanor. The potential conviction penalties include up to 2 years in jail and a maximum fine of $6,250.
What's important to note about this subsection of exploitation of a minor law is that for each minor depicted in the image, you face a separate charge. For instance, if a minor sends you a photo of themselves and 2 of their friends engaged in a prohibited sexual act, you would be charged for 3 separate offenses (one for each minor in the depiction). However, if you have multiple photos or videos of one minor, that is charged as 1 offense.
Steeper Penalties for More Serious Offenses
The level of charge for sexual exploitation of a minor does not stop at an aggravated misdemeanor. It increases as the alleged offense becomes more serious. For instance, say a minor sent you a sexually explicit video. If you knowingly promote that depiction, you could be facing a class "D" felony charge. The penalties for a conviction include up to 5 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
This level and class of offense can also be levied against you if you possessed an explicit image of a minor and you were previously convicted of this or a similar crime. However, the fine is a maximum of $7,500.
The most severe punishments for an exploitation of a minor offense are imposed when you actually ask, persuade, or somehow make a minor engage in a sexually prohibited act or simulate a sexually prohibited act. The minor does not have to comply with your request for charges to be brought upon you. Even if you simply attempt to have them participate in such conduct, you're committing a crime.
For soliciting a minor engage in a sexually prohibited act to be prosecuted under the exploitation law, you must have intended or known that it was intended for the conduct to be photographed or filmed. This is a class "C" felony offense. The prison time for a conviction is a maximum of 10 years, and the fine is up to $50,000.