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Proposed New Legislation to Reduce Penalties for Teen Sexting

While vast improvements in communication technology offer many benefits, some of these innovations lead to new types of criminal violations. Many parents do not suspect that text messaging can result in their kids facing criminal charges, but prosecutors in Pennsylvania and around the country are becoming extremely aggressive about pursuing sexting activity as child pornography. A new bill that has recently passed both the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives and awaits the governor’s signatures seeks to ease the penalties for kids involved in sexting.

Charging teens with child pornography

The practice of sexting essentially refers to sending and receiving sexually explicit material electronically via mobile phone or computer. When underage teens engage in sending an explicit video or image to another teen, including someone that the teen is dating, this may result in very serious child pornography charges. A teenager convicted of a child pornography charge in Pennsylvania may face severe penalties, including a felony conviction, maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison, maximum fine of $25,000 and registration as a sex offender.

When your kid takes a nude or partially nude photo of him or herself and sends it via text message or email to a boyfriend or girlfriend, both kids may face child porn charges. The kid who takes the picture and transmits it may be charged with producing and distributing child pornography. The recipient of the image may be charged with possession of child pornography.

New legislation aims to reduce the punishment of teens sending explicit texts to a misdemeanor

The pending legislation is a response to criticism leveled against law enforcement agencies and prosecutors for pursuing cases against high school students and other minors based on such sexting activity. Child pornography laws are designed to protect kids who might be susceptible to exploitation by adults. The use of these serious sex crime charges to pursue kids sharing explicit pictures of themselves with the person that they are dating seems to turn the goal of child pornography laws on their head.

If the governor signs the bill into law, new specific penalties would be adopted for sexting activity by minors. The new law would reduce the charge for sexting by anyone 17 or younger to a summary offense (misdemeanor). If your teenager is facing criminal charges for sexting, our experienced Berks County sex crimes law firm fights aggressively for his or her freedom and future.

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