February 12, 2020
Sexting Minors: A Life-Altering Offense
You had a few too many drinks with your friends. Freshman year of college is supposed to be a wild time. But then, something tells you to reach out to your old high school fling. That late-night DM turns into something graphic. You send her a picture and ask her for one back. But she’s only 16 and you’re 19 going on 20 years old. While you had a consenting relationship in the past, you no longer do. And now she’s upset. She’s threatening to call the police and to press charges.
The U.S. legal system defines sexting as “an act of sending sexually explicit materials through mobile phones.” Such formats include text, photo, or video.
In 2012, the Pennsylvania courts created and enacted a law that criminalizes the sharing of sexually explicit images by minors. The law states that a minor, someone under the age of 18, cannot:
- transmit, distribute, or disseminate an electronic communication containing a nude image of him or herself or any other person age 12 to 18, or
- possess a nude photo of another person between the ages of 12 and 17
Under Pennsylvania law, the crime of sexting is less serious than child pornography. But, depending on the circumstances, it could be seen as child pornography or obscenity.
It is important to know that it is a crime for an adult (an individual over 18) to possess, distribute disseminate or exhibit child pornography or for a teen to have images of a child under 12 years of age.
There is also the added issue of obscenity.
In Pennsylvania obscenity law, it’s a crime to photograph, manufacture, or prepare any obscene material depicting a child under the age of 18. It is also a crime to:
- Produce, present, direct, or participate in any obscene performance featuring a child under the age of 18;
- To sell, give away, transmit, or show any obscene material to a child under the age of 18’
- Or to disseminate any sexually explicit material depicting nudity or sexual conduct to a minor.
Typically, nude photos and photos that are sexual in nature are considered obscene.
Depending on the degree of the crime will determine the length of your punishment.
- Photographing child pornography or causing a child to participate in the making of pornography: Second Degree Felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
- Possessing or distributing child pornography: Felony of the Third Degree, punishable by as much as seven years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
- Other obscenity convictions: misdemeanors of the first degree, punishable by up to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Engaging in sexting with minors is no small offense. It can drastically alter your life and if serious enough, you may be required to file as a sex offender. Don’t take the chance of incriminating yourself to law enforcement. Contact an attorney immediately.
An experienced criminal defense law firm acts to help you in challenging situations. At Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano, we can assist you in determining how to fight your charges. Contact us to discuss your case.