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Sending nude or sexually explicit images via electronic communications such as text, social media, and email is known as “sexting”. Unfortunately, it has become a common practice for teenagers, so Pennsylvania has enacted specific laws that deal with teen sexting. If your child is facing these types of charges, it’s important to find a criminal defense attorney who has experience handling teen sexting cases.

Why are There Specific Sexting Laws for Teens?

Many teens do not possess good judgment and may send sexually explicit images to their peers. These images may be considered child pornography, which can come with harsh penalties if someone is convicted of a crime. To keep teenagers from having to endure lifelong repercussions such as prison time and being branded as sex offenders, many states have created sexting laws that apply to certain behavior by minors.

Although these crimes are usually charged as misdemeanors, if a teen’s conduct is particularly harmful, they can still face felony charges.  An experienced sex crimes lawyer can investigate the facts of your case and determine which types of charges and penalties may apply.

Teen Sexting Law in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania law, the electronic dissemination of “sexually explicit images” by minors is typically charged as a summary offense or misdemeanor. Images that involve nudity or show a minor’s genitals, pubic area, breasts, or buttocks in a sexual manner are considered sexually explicit. Typically, penalties are based on the severity of the conduct involved, and the motivation for sending the explicit images.

A minor who knowingly sends a sexually explicit selfie may be charged with a summary offense, which is the most minor type of criminal offense in Pennsylvania. If a minor knowingly possesses or views a sexually explicit image of another minor age 12 or older, it is also considered a summary offense.

Sharing, sending, or publishing an image of another minor is a third-degree misdemeanor. If an explicit image of another minor is taken without permission and with the intention to harass, intimidate, or cause emotional distress, a minor can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.

Penalties for Teen Sexting

Penalties for a summary offense include up to 90 days in a juvenile detention center and a $300 fine. However, the minor will first be referred to a diversion program, which educates them on the consequences of sexting. If they successfully complete this program, charges will be expunged.

A third-degree misdemeanor can involve one year in a juvenile detention center and a $2,500 fine. Second-degree misdemeanors may come with a $5,000 fine and two years of incarceration. A teen’s phone and other devices may also be permanently confiscated.

More harmful acts such as sending images of children engaged in sexual acts or images of children younger than 12 are prosecuted under stricter child pornography and obscenity laws. These convictions carry more severe sentences, including sex offender registration requirements.

A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Protect Your Rights

If your child is facing charges relating to sexting with minors, it is critical to contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Our team of experienced attorneys includes drug crime lawyers and domestic violence lawyers as well. Whether you need help with criminal defense due to teen sexting charges or you are seeking a Protection from Abuse order, we provide legal representation and services you can trust.