Child Pornography Charges And Teen Sexting Between Peers

iPhones and smartphones are everywhere, and it is rare to find a teen who doesn’t own one. Though cell phones were originally created to provide the convenience of portability and accessibility, their use has evolved beyond communication into powerful miniature computers, cameras, and more. For all of the benefits that the technology provides, it has also created a whole new legal issue around the line between modern flirting and criminal law, specifically where teen sexting between peers is viewed as crossing the line and evokes child pornography charges.

In the state of Pennsylvania, the law in question is 18 Pa. C.S. Section 6321, which makes it a criminal act for a minor to possess and share nude and sexually suggestive images of people between the ages of 12 and 18. The goal of the law is not to stop sexting, but the resending of this type of image by the person to whom it was originally sent. The state’s representatives passed the law because prior to its existence teens could be charged under a child pornography law that included a charge of sexual abuse of children. That law provided no flexibility or understanding of the age or specifics of the situation, while Section 6321 created a legal space for minors. It is specifically for situations where both the recipient of the image and the person receiving it are under the age of 18, and, importantly, the law is not meant for or used in situations where a photo involves a minor involved in sexual intercourse or similar acts, or photos sent out as retribution or for blackmail purposes.

The law is highly specific as to how it defines nudity and includes any photo shown for sexual stimulation or gratification. Despite its strictness, it importantly does not require anybody charged and convicted of registering or reporting as a sexual offender. Those who are charged with a violation of the law will face punishment depending upon how the violation is graded, with the lightest offense described as sending a sexually explicit image of themselves or having/viewing a sexually explicit image of a minor 12 years of age or older. It is punishable with a maximum fine of $300 and a maximum of 90 days in jail. It is considered more serious if a minor publishes or sends images of another minor, and is punishable by a maximum year in jail and a $2,000 fine, and if that photo or video is of a nude minor without their knowledge or consent and is made with ill intent, it is considered most serious and is punishable by a maximum of 2 years in jail and a $5,000.00 fine.

If your child has been charged under this or any other law for sending nude images, you need the help of a criminal law attorney. Call us today to book an appointment.