Pennsylvania legislators are considering a law that would make it illegal for teens to engage in "sexting," or sending nude pictures of themselves or other minors through their cell phones. The bill is being sponsored by a State Representative who believes the law would help to curtail the unintentional dissemination of sexually graphic images of minors.
A teen accused of sexting would still technically face a sex crime charge. However, underage sexting would be categorized as a juvenile offense punishable primarily by fines.
Under current Pennsylvania law, minors caught sexting could be subject to a charge for possession of child pornography, which is a felony. A felony conviction would remain on a teen's criminal record into adulthood. But under the proposed law, a sexting charge would be a juvenile infraction that could eventually be expunged.
Under the proposed legislation, a teen guilty of sexting could in most cases be required to pay a mandatory fine. In more serious cases, if sexting were to be used as a bullying tactic for example, a minor could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, a teen could spend up to two years in prison and pay a $5,000 fine.
This proposal is ostensibly designed to prevent nude pictures of minors from ending up in the wrong hands, however, some critics of the bill have remarked that underage sexting is not an issue the criminal justice system should be concerned with. While the law would subject offenders to relatively slight penalties, criminal charges are nonetheless serious. A Pennsylvania teen accused of sexting could suffer damage to their reputation and personal life. And the potential for false accusations by other teens seems substantial, and something that should be considered by lawmakers.
Source: Northampton Patch, "Teens Can Have Sex in Pa, but 'Sexting' Could be Outlawed," Eric Boehm, Oct. 23, 2012