Minors Who Sext Could Be Facing New Penalties
Technology often changes so fast that laws can quickly become outdated. Legislatures then have to scramble to implement changes that either enhance or reduce penalties to make them more appropriate in certain situations. The widespread use of cellphones has led to new legal issues that were not considered when laws were originally implemented.
Pennsylvania legislators recently passed a bill that deals with “sexting.” Sexting occurs when individuals send naked pictures to significant others in text messages. While consenting adults may not find themselves subject to a law enforcement investigation, many teenagers faced harsh consequences if caught sending, receiving, or saving these messages.
If the photo in the sext was of a minor, the image could lead to an individual facing child pornography charges. Conviction of these sex crimes means that the person will need to register as a sex offender, which can lead to a lifetime of complications. Sex offenders have difficulty finding employment or a place to live, and will have to comply with many other requirements even after they complete their prison sentences.
Sexting has become more common among high school students. The child pornography laws were not created to handle sexting issues, and the harsh consequences of sex offender registration seemed excessive for high school students engaging in sexting with their classmates.
However, prosecutors have had little choice but to charge those students with felonies for this behavior. This created a lot of problems for students that were ultimately convicted of these crimes. Their lives were forever changed simply because the laws could not keep up with technology.
The new rule would reduce the potential penalties in place for sexting teens aged 17 or younger. It would reduce the charges from felonies to misdemeanors or summary offenses. Teens could still be punished for their actions, but wouldn’t have to register as a sex offender. Teens may be charged for knowingly possessing an image of someone aged 12 or older. Officials wanted to have some type of punishments to protect students from being bullied by the use of these photos or videos.
If you are facing sex crimes charges, take the matter seriously. Speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area to understand how to present a strong defense. Do not wait or think that the case will just go away. Prosecutors aggressively pursue convictions in these cases. Frequently, these types of cases can become attract a lot of media attention, which could have a negative impact on your ability to receive a fair trial.