What Should Teens Know about Pennsylvania Sexting Laws?

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
June 3, 2022

Parents and minors might be surprised to know that minors sexting is considered to be a criminal offense under Pennsylvania law. “Sexting” is an activity that involves sending nude or provocative images electronically through text messaging, social media, or other online platforms. This activity has become popular amongst minors and can have negative consequences. 

Pennsylvania sexting laws are still relatively new, and there is still some uncertainty on what qualifies as a criminal offense or what is permitted under these new laws. When dealing with a specific case regarding your teen participating in sexting, consult with an experienced criminal law attorney for specific guidance involving the next steps. 

What Is the Pennsylvania Sexting Law? 

The sexting laws passed in 2012 affect minors ages 12-17 that prohibit sending sexually explicit pictures that include nudity or sexually depicting a minor’s body. Minors who participate in these activities risk getting misdemeanor charges, as well as those minors who possess these images. Teens who are ages 12-17 that spread sexually explicit images of ages 12-17 minors to bully, harass, or coerce the minor in those images are also at risk of facing misdemeanor charges. Here are some examples of situations included in sexting law: 

  • Sexting selfies 
  • Possession of a sexting image 
  • Harassment, bullying, or creating emotional distress by sharing sexting images 

These activities will not result in felony charges, but the consequences of summary and misdemeanor charges are still serious. Being charged with a misdemeanor as a teen could result in fines and court orders to attend a diversionary program. 

Penalties of Sexting by Minors in Pennsylvania

Although minors do not typically face felony charges for these offenses, there are a number of penalties that a minor can receive for sexting. Some of the penalties include:

  • Summary offense and diversion: This allows for up to  90 days of incarceration and a $300 fine. The minor may be permitted to attend a diversionary program for the first offense. If this program is completed, the Court may erase the charges.
  • Forfeiting your device: The device used in any sexting criminal offenses must be forfeited. 
  • Misdemeanor charges: A third-degree misdemeanor for teens sharing images of teens is punishable by up to a year of incarceration and a $2500 fine. Second-degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to two years of incarceration and a $5,000 fine.
  • Other serious offenses: There are some activities under sexting that have more severe charges, like sexting images of minors under 12 or minors engaged in sexual activity that fall under child pornography and obscenity penalties.

The anxiety and stress associated with a minor being charged for sexting can be upsetting for everyone involved, especially the minor who has to endure the consequences of such activities. Consult an attorney who is knowledgeable in Pennsylvania sexting laws and will be able to offer expertise on the matter of how to act, respond, and protect their future. 

Consult a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney Regarding Pennsylvania Sexting Laws 

If your teen is facing sexting charges, consult a criminal defense attorney for appropriate legal guidance regarding their case. The attorneys at  Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C. are skilled in navigating complex cases and building strategies to protect their clients’ futures. 

With 65 years of experience helping those in the Pennsylvania community, the legal team at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C. are equipped to provide the best legal advice and how to respond to these charges. For additional information, contact us for a free consultation at (215) 822-7575 or fill out our contact form today.

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
June 3, 2022
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.