Can You Get in Legal Trouble for Sexting in Pennsylvania?

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
June 3, 2021

can you get in legal trouble for sexting in pa“Sexting,” or texting nude photos of yourself or someone else, has become widespread with increased use of social media and smartphones in today’s online world. It’s too easy to take photos or videos on a cell phone and instantly text, email, or post them on social media to be viewed by thousands. When done without the portrayed person’s consent, it’s considered a crime in Pennsylvania. When that person is under age 18, it’s illegal with or without the minor’s consent. 

Any adult who sends images of their private body parts to a teenager or child, or asks them to do likewise, is perpetrating a crime that can be punished by the same consequences that face a child sex offender. If you have been charged with sexting in Pennsylvania, it is essential to consult with a knowledgeable and dependable Pennsylvania sex crimes defense lawyer immediately to learn your available legal avenues. 

What Is Pennsylvania’s Sexting Law for Teens & Minors?

Cyberbullying and sexting have been known to lead multiple teenagers to take their own lives in the past. As a consequence, Pennsylvania prosecutors waste no time or resources to find a defendant guilty.

Pennsylvania passed 18 Pa. C.S. section 6321 in 2012 that made it a misdemeanor or summary offense for teenagers to engage in sexting. Under the Pennsylvania teen sexting law, it is illegal to:

  • Possess a nude image of another person between ages 12 to 17
  • Transfer, share or distribute an electronic communication, including emails, text message, or instant messages, that contains a nude image of themselves or any other person between ages 12 to 17

Under this law, even if a teenager receives a text or message with a nude image of another minor but did not request it, they can still be charged with a crime. However, if they are convicted, they will NOT be required to register as a sexual offender.

This law does not apply for more severe sex crimes, like if nude images of minors are sold for commercial purposes or when the images portray sexual acts. These crimes are punishable under stricter laws such as child pornography.

What Are the Consequences for Teen Sexting in Pennsylvania?

Sexting for teens and minor under 18 is considered a summary offense for which the penalties include:

  •  Detention up to 90 days
  • Fines up to $300

Additionally, diversionary programs where teens attend educational classes on the consequences of sexting are potentially available if they are admitted into the program.

If a teenager shares the sext of another minor, they can be charged with a misdemeanor and face penalties of up to one year in  juvenile facility and fines up to $2,500. Further, any case involving harassment by sharing sexts can raise fines to $5,000, and the court can confiscate and never return the teen’s phone.

What Are Sexting Punishments for Adults in Pennsylvania?

If sexting involves a minor and an adult the accused adult faces much more severe consequences if they’re convicted. Depending on the case, a person could be charged with luring a child, sexual exploitation of a child, or child pornography

A conviction for child pornography is a felony offense with penalties that include: 

With a conviction of any obscene child offense in Pennsylvania, offenders must publicly register as sex offenders wherever they live, work, and go to school for anywhere from three months to the rest of their lives.

Keep in mind that sexting can be prosecuted at the federal level under the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of 2003. If a computer was used to ship, transport, receive, distribute, or reproduce images to distribute child pornography or solicit pornographic images of minors, the defendant can be federally prosecuted and face much harsher penalties than they would if charged at the state level. 

Consult an Experienced Pennsylvania Sexting Defense Lawyer 

Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C. have defended individuals facing sex crime charges for over 65 years in Montgomery County, Bucks County, and surrounding areas. When you retain our lawyers as your criminal defense lawyer, we will vigorously defend you or your child’s rights with strategic defense against sex crime allegations. Sexting, child pornography, and luring children are serious accusations that involve tough penalties that can affect the rest of your or your child’s future. 

Our talented team is supported by four former prosecutors who are very experienced in negotiating with the district attorney’s office. When you partner with Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C. sex crimes defense attorneys, you are always treated with understanding, dignity, and respect. 

If you have been charged with a sexting offense in Southeastern Pennsylvania, consult our knowledgeable sexting defense attorneys in Montgomery County about your situation. Schedule a free and confidential case review by calling 215-822-7575 or complete our contact form.

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
June 3, 2021
Established in 1952 by Irwin S. Rubin, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. boasts over 65 years of experience serving clients throughout Pennsylvania. Renowned for its commitment to ethical representation, the firm has garnered prestigious accolades, including being named the "Best Law Firm" for its outstanding legal defense work by U.S. News & World Report. Their team of seasoned attorneys, recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars, brings unparalleled expertise to a wide range of legal matters, ensuring exceptional representation for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.