West Chester PA Sexting Charges
Sexting in the State of Pennsylvania
According to a 2009 report from the Pew Research Center, at least 4 percent of teens who have cell phones have sent a sexually suggestive, nude or partially nude photo of themselves via text message. Another study, done in 2008, found that 20 percent of teens between the ages of 13 and 19 have used an electronic device to send or post a sexually suggestive, nude or partially nude photo of themselves online. Even though three-quarters of teens acknowledged the potentially serious, negative consequences of sexting, they nonetheless continued to engage in sexting behaviors.
In 2008, after an eighteen-year-old girl e-mailed a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend, who then passed it on to other students, the young girl was so humiliated, she ended up taking her own life. In 2009, a 13-year old also committed suicide after sending a photo of her naked breasts to her boyfriend, who then proceeded to share the photo with others in their school. As you can see, a lapse in judgment due to immaturity can have very grave consequences.
Penalties Associated with Teenage Sexting
Teen sexting cases care most often handled in juvenile court, where the judges have more discretion as far as sentencing. Teens who possess a sexually explicit image of another teenager, or those who share images of themselves, could be convicted of a summary offense, which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, and a fine of up to $300. The teenage offender could also be referred to a diversionary program which included a program which educates the teen about the potential consequences of sexting.
If a teenager shares a photo which depicts another person, he or she could face third-degree misdemeanor charges, and, if convicted, could face up to a year in jail, and up to $2,500 in fines. If that photo is shared as a means of harassing another teen, the teenager who shares the photo could face a second-degree misdemeanor, and, if convicted, could face up to two years in jail, and fines as much as $5,000. The teenager’s cell phone or other communication device can also be taken by the state
Even if no criminal charges are filed against your teen, there are additional consequences associated with allegations of sexting. Because it is so easy to forward and share anything posted online, lasting damage can occur to your teen’s reputation, and he or she may even be bullied, or, at the very least, humiliated. Your teen’s school may have their own rules against sexting, so your teen could be subject to school punishment as well.
The Crime of Sexting in the State of Pennsylvania
It is unlawful, in the state of Pennsylvania, for teenagers to send one another suggestive or partially naked photographs via text message, e-mail or through any other social media messaging system. The crime of sexting is very serious, albeit less serious than charges of child pornography. Under certain circumstances teenage sexting can be considered as obscene, and possibly even as child pornography, depending on the age of the teen and the age of the subject. Under Pennsylvania Statutes, Section 5702 and 6321, it is unlawful for a minor who is less than eighteen to:
· Possess a nude photo of another person between the ages of 12 and 17;
· Transmit a nude photo of themselves or any other minor who is older than 12, but younger than 18, through an electronic communication;
· Distribute a nude image of themselves or any other person who is older than 12, but younger than 18, through an electronic communication, or
· Share a nude image of themselves or any other person who is older than 12, but younger than 18, through an electronic communication.
As an example, if a teenager in the state of Pennsylvania sends a photograph of an unclothed or partially unclothed classmate to other classmates, both the teen who sent the photo and the teen who received the photo could potentially be prosecuted. The offense will be subject to more severe penalties, if the sharing of the nude photo was done without that person’s permission, or was done as a means of causing the teen emotional distress, or to harass him or her. Therefore, if your teen shares nude photos of his girlfriend while they are a couple, or shares nude photos of his girlfriend after the two of them break up, he will likely be prosecuted more harshly if it is done after the break up, as it could be considered harassment.
Federal Laws Against Sexting
While the state penalties for sexting can be harsh, in some cases sexting may be a crime under federal laws as well. Under the 2003 PROTECT Act, it is illegal to distribute, receive, possess or produce any photograph of a minor who is engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Even if your teen knowingly possesses this type of photo, with no intention of distributing the photo, he could be criminally charged.
Parents who knowingly allow their minor child to take part in sexually explicit conduct to visually depict that conduct can also be prosecuted. Federal prosecution for teenagers who engage in sexting is unlikely, therefore those cases are more likely to be prosecuted in the state of Pennsylvania. Generally, naked photographs or photographs which are sexual in nature may be considered obscene. As an example, if an adult shares a naked photograph of himself or herself with a person under the age of 18, he or she could be charged with disseminating sexually explicit materials with minors.
Getting Help from an Experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
If your teen is facing charges of Sexting, it is imperative that you contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney who has considerable experience in defending those charged with a sexual offense. A conviction for sexting can completely derail your teen’s future, including his or her decision to go to college, or the ability to obtain employment. Quick, decisive, proactive actions are necessary to protect your teenager’s rights and his or her future.
The sex crimes defense attorneys of Ciccarelli Law Offices have successfully represented individuals throughout the state of Pennsylvania that have been accused of sexual assault crimes. Our Chester County based law firm is based at 304 North High Street, West Chester PA 19380 and serves clients in Kennett Square, Downingtown, West Chester, Coatesville, Exton, Chester Springs, Chadds Ford, Landenberg, Honey Brook, Oxford, Malvern, Parkesburg, Phoenixville and Paoli. Contact us now at (610) 692-8700 or call toll free (877) 529-2422. Don’t wait—contact an attorney immediately.