"Sexting" May Soon Be a Juvenile Offense in Pennsylvania
On June 29, 2010, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed House Bill 2189, which created a new juvenile offense, Section 6321 "Sexting by Minors." The bill makes it a crime for juveniles to knowingly record, view, possess or transmit sexually explicit images of persons over 13 but under 18 via cell phone, e-mail or the Internet. The definition of "sexually explicit" can include semi-nude photos.
There are a few district attorneys in Pennsylvania who have charged teens with a felony offense for sexting, saying it falls under the child pornography statute, however, no Pennsylvania court has upheld a felony child pornography conviction for teen sexting.
If approved by the Senate and signed into law, HB 2189 sexting would be defined as a second degree misdemeanor offense. While the DA's office seems to think this is a good way to address a problem behavior by teens, there are no sentencing guidelines for this misdemeanor under the Juvenile Act. A judge can impose any sentence up to four years, with jurisdiction lasting until the young person is 21.
A criminal charge of any kind can have a serious, negative effect on a young person's life. Whether a felony or misdemeanor, a charge under the Juvenile Act could result in time in a juvenile detention center and a juvenile record that could lead to problems finding a job or getting financial aid for school until the young person is able to get his or her record sealed or expunged.
Criminalizing an admittedly unwise behavior that 25 percent of teens engage in, consensually, is taking things too far.
Pennsylvania Sexting Charge Attorneys
At Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, we provide a strong and serious defense against criminal charges young people are up against. Our juvenile defense lawyers understand young people and the challenges they face when they enter the juvenile justice system. Our goal is to ensure your child does not suffer serious penalties for self-expression between peers protected by the First Amendment.
There are situations in which sexting is problematic; such as when it is done secretly with the intent of causing embarrassment or harm. But most often this is not the case and it is simply an expression of love between two young people who don't realize the negative effects such actions can have if these images fall into the wrong hands.
If your young person has been charged with a sex crime, whether it's texting or possession of child pornography for images of a person who is also underage, talk with an experienced Harrisburg sexting attorney. With early intervention we can often minimize the negative impact a child can face from a juvenile charge.
Contact our Harrisburg or Millersburg law office to talk with a Pennsylvania sexting charge attorney.