Smart phones have significantly simplified our lives in many ways. It has become easier to surf the web, stay in touch and capture and share memories with the click of a button. But this improved technology can have some negative repercussions, especially for young teenagers.

Sexting is the sending of nude or suggestive photographs by text message, and, when teenagers do it, it can be illegal. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as many as 30 percent of teens participate in sexting for one reason or another. This means that nearly 1 in every 3 teens has put themselves in the position of facing extremely serious consequences.

Pennsylvania’s Teen Sexting Law

In 2012, Pennsylvania enacted a law criminalizing the transmission of sexually explicit images by minors. Under the state’s sexting law, it is a crime for a minor (a person under the age of 18) to:

  • Transmit, distribute, or disseminate (share) an electronic communication (such as a text message or instant message) containing a nude image of him or herself or any other person age 12 or older, but younger than 18
  • Possess a nude photo of another person between the ages of 12 and 17

With a few exceptions, teen sexting typically constitutes a third-degree misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law, although the charge may be upgraded if a minor intended to harass or intimidate another minor by:

  • Taking a photo of a minor who is either partially or fully nude without that person’s consent
  • Distributing this type of image without the minor’s consent

Teen sexting is on the rise in recent years, and covered legally under child pornography laws. Don’t let your child’s lapse of judgement and immaturity leave a serious blemish on their criminal record. Call the criminal defense lawyers at PGHLAW.

Sexting & Federal Law

Depending on the circumstances, sexting may also be a crime under federal law.

Federal law also criminalizes causing a minor to take part in sexually explicit conduct in order to visually depict that conduct.

It’s also a federal crime to use a computer to ship, transport, receive, distribute, or reproduce for distribution a depiction of a minor actually engaging in sexually explicit conduct, or any material that otherwise constitutes child pornography. It’s another federal crime to promote or solicit sexually explicit material involving a minor. (18 U.S.C. §§ 2252, 2252A.)

But federal prosecution of juveniles for sexting may be unlikely. The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA) generally provides that, where possible, juveniles should be prosecuted in state—not federal—courts. (18 U.S.C. § 5032.)


Don’t underestimate the consequences of sexting

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