Go to the mall, a fast food restaurant or anywhere else you’re likely to find teenagers, and you’ll hardly see one without a cellphone. Cellphones give teens the opportunity to keep in touch with their friends via texting and social media. However, Pennsylvania teenagers may not even realize that they can get into serious trouble with the law just by having certain pictures stored on their phones. The potential consequences are even worse if they send these pictures to their friends and other contacts. It can be a nightmare to imagine that your own teen might be facing criminal charges for “sexting,” a type of text messaging that’s popular among middle school and high school students.
Viewing, creating, receiving or sharing child pornography is a crime associated with serious consequences both in Pennsylvania and on the federal level. For instance, first-time offenders charged with producing pornographic materials of minors may be required to spend between 15 and 30 years in prison. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, pictures of minors are considered child pornography even if the children are not engaging in sexual activity. Additionally, the age of consent does not apply in these cases. Any pictures or media files containing explicit images of children under the age of 18 are considered illegal.
Many people in Pennsylvania believe that what they view, post, or who they interact with online is completely private. However, this is not always the case. For instance, in Pennsylvania viewing or receiving child pornography is a crime that is punishable on both the state and federal level. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, under federal law, images of child pornography are not protected under the First Amendment and are considered illegal contraband. This includes any images that are viewed or created online or taken and then uploaded to the internet or another electronic device.
Many people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere fall into the trap of pornography, and it quickly becomes an addiction. For some people, this addiction leads them to seek child pornography. Because it exploits children, people who are caught with child pornography are often prosecuted and punished severely. Often, these people also need help to overcome their addiction.
Law enforcement in Pennsylvania use many tools to help them track down people who may be guilty of a crime. Although it’s their job to find and arrest people who have committed sex crimes, drug crimes, and other serious offenses, it’s also important for them to follow the limits established in the state and federal constitutions.
In Pennsylvania, rape is a first degree felony with serious consequences that may include up to 20 years in prison, a fine or both, but rape is just one of many crimes that may merit legal ramifications. Other offenses include internet pornography, prostitution, child pornography, sexual assault or a number of other sex crimes.
A federal district court judge expressed his dismay with the defendant before him when he said "I can't ignore the overwhelmingly dispicable violation of trust that occurred here" as he sentenced a woman convicted in a child pornography scheme to a 25 year sentence. The woman was initially accused of taking explicit pictures of her own seven-year-old daughter and sending them to an accomplice in New Jersey that were eventually viewed around the world.
The FBI recently conducted the agnecy's largest ever operation of child sex-trafficking in an effort to respond to growing concerns about teens being held against their will as prostitutes. Child prostitution has been an underlying problem that has not garnered major crime headlines in Pennsylvania or elsewhere in the United States, but it remains a constant as vulnerable teens from difficult conditions are exploited.
Being accused of a sex crime carries a unique (and forever damaging) social stigma where people may assume you are guilty simply by being charged. The assumptions and notions are even more severe when sex crime charges involve the alleged exploitation of children.