Almost every teenager owns a cell phone, tablet, or other mobile device today. Unfortunately, the widespread use of cell phones and other devices by teenagers to communicate with each other has led to the practice known as “sexting.” Sexting occurs when a person sends sexually suggestive, partially nude, or nude photographs through text messages, e-mail, or a social media messaging application. Therefore, hiring an experienced juvenile sexting lawyer is imperative if the police charge your child with sexting.
The Dangers of Sexting
Most teenagers do not realize the long-term consequences of texting nudes or sharing sexual images on social media or other platforms. Unfortunately, most children do not realize their actions will result in criminal charges. Also, Pennsylvania is among 20 states that have enacted laws addressing this type of conduct when committed by minors.
Both the sender and the recipient of sexually-explicit photos can suffer significant emotional trauma. In addition, sexually-related images can be posted online, making their permanent removal difficult, if not impossible.
The Lifelong Consequences of Sexting
A criminal record for a sexual offense can seriously harm a child’s reputation. Also, it will interfere with your child’s future educational and professional opportunities. Therefore, in addition to a criminal history check, many employers and college admissions officers review an applicant’s social media history as part of the application process.
Individuals with sexually related pictures posted online are often subject to bullying and other forms of psychological abuse. Additionally, it is common for teenagers to distribute sexually-explicit images among classmates, on school grounds, or during school hours.
In that case, they can face school discipline for cyber-harassment or cyber-bullying. Again, an experienced juvenile criminal defense lawyer is vital if police file sexting charges against your child.
Bucks County Juvenile Sexting Defense Attorney
I have over a decade of experience providing skilled and aggressive representation to individuals charged with sexual offenses in Bucks County, Montgomery County, and the surrounding Pennsylvania Counties.
Contact me at (215) 752-5282 for a free initial consultation, or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response. Appointments are available after business hours and on weekends.
PA Sexting Laws
The Pennsylvania legislature passed the current sexting laws in Pa in 2012. The law addresses conduct related to sexting and is not intended to replace or modify existing child pornography laws.
However, a teenager who distributes or otherwise transmits a sexually-related image of a child under the age of 12 could still face federal or state child pornography charges.
The Pennsylvania sexting law does not apply to images depicting minors engaged in sexual intercourse or other sexual acts or pictures taken, produced, or intended for commercial use.
Sexting cases are usually adjudicated through the juvenile court system. The Pennsylvania sexting law defines several types of conduct related to sexting, with escalating penalties based on the specific type of conduct that has allegedly occurred.
Summary Sexting Offense
A summary sexting offense occurs when a minor- defined under the statute as someone 12 years of age or older and under 18 years of age- possesses or knowingly views a sexually explicit image of another minor or transmits or distributes a sexually-explicit photo of themselves.
- Up to 90 days in jail
- Up to $300 in fines
This section of the sexting law will often apply to situations in which minors consensually exchange sexually-related photos between themselves. In addition, the statute requires a juvenile court or magisterial district judge to consider a diversionary first-time offender program for juveniles charged under this law section.
3rd Degree Misdemeanor Sexting Offense
A minor commits a 3rd-degree misdemeanor sexting offense if they knowingly transmit, distribute, or otherwise publish a sexually-explicit image of another minor.
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Up to $2,500 in fines
2nd Degree Misdemeanor Sexting
A minor commits a 2nd-degree misdemeanor sexting offense if they knowingly transmit, produce, or distribute a sexually-explicit image of another minor without that minor’s knowledge or consent and with the intent to harass, intimidate or cause other emotional distress.
- Up to 2 years in jail
- Up to $5,000 in fines
Diversionary Programs for Sexting Cases
It is often possible to avoid having a sexting offense become part of your permanent criminal record through placement in a diversionary program for first-time offenders.
Juvenile and magisterial district court judges are required to consider placement in a diversionary program for juvenile offenders with the potential for rehabilitation.
Diversionary Program Requirements for Sexting Cases
Individuals accepted into a diversionary program for a sexting offense are eligible to have their charges dismissed if certain program conditions are completed, including participation in an educational awareness program.
The court-ordered educational program addresses safe cellphone usage, appropriate communication practices among adolescents, and the legal and non-legal consequences of sexting. Successful completion of the diversionary program will also result in the expungement of the criminal records of the case.
Eligibility for the diversionary program for sexting offenses is not guaranteed. Unfortunately, juveniles not qualifying for the diversionary program may find it challenging to have their sexting charges expunged or removed from their record.
As a result, these individuals may have limited future personal, educational, and professional opportunities.
I Have Extensive Experience in the Juvenile Court System
As an experienced PA juvenile defense lawyer, I have considerable experience with the juvenile court hearing process in Bucks County, Montgomery County, and the surrounding counties. Therefore, I understand the factors that are considered by the juvenile court judges and prosecutors when they decide whether to offer a child an opportunity to participate in a diversionary program for a sexting offense.
I will provide the juvenile court judge, probation officer, and prosecutor with the necessary information about your child’s background and character. This will ensure your child is in the best position to be approved for the program.
Completing the diversionary program will enable your child to move on with their life without the stigma of having a sexting offense as part of your record. I can guide you through the program application process if you or a loved one is charged with a sexting offense.
You should immediately contact an attorney experienced in defending sex offense cases if you are under investigation for a sexting crime. I have defended juveniles and adults charged with the most severe sexual crimes under Pennsylvania law.
I will thoroughly investigate the facts and circumstances of your case to develop the most effective legal strategy. Common defenses to sexting may include the following:
- The photos are not sexually-explicit as defined under the law
- The police seized evidence in violation of your child’s constitutional rights
- Your child’s device was used by a third party to send or receive photos
- The police violated your child’s Miranda rights during questioning
If you are the parent or guardian of a child whom you suspect has engaged in a sexting incident, do not view or distribute the images. I can often take steps at the beginning of the investigation to increase the chances of a successful case resolution.
The Charging Decision by the Prosecutor
When police or school authorities receive evidence of a sexting incident, prosecutors have broad discretion in deciding which charges to file. Sometimes, the prosecutor will review the evidence and decline to file criminal charges.
In other situations, the prosecutor may file charges under the state sexting or child pornography laws. Therefore, it is essential to have a juvenile lawyer advocating for your child at the beginning of the case before the prosecutor or police make a charging decision.
Prosecutors are more likely to file sexting charges if the sexually-explicit images fall within the sexting statute and if evidence exists that the alleged offender has distributed sexually-explicit pictures to more than 1 juvenile.
A prosecutor’s decision to file sexting charges against you can devastate your child’s future. Therefore, having an experienced attorney contact the prosecutor as soon as you are under investigation is critical.
Developing a Sexting Defense at the Earliest Stage of the Case
In many cases, I can thoroughly review the evidence of any alleged sexting incidents before the prosecutor formally decides to file charges. In some instances, I have used a defense investigator and forensic computer expert to establish a complete defense of the charges.
In other cases, I have been able to share the results of the defense investigation to persuade the prosecutor to decline prosecution of the offense or to agree to file reduced or less severe charges. Finally, I can review the circumstances and evidence in your case to determine the most effective legal defense to pursue.
Have the police charged your child with a sexting crime in Bucks County, Montgomery County, or the surrounding Pennsylvania Counties? In that case, you must act quickly to protect your child’s future and build the most forceful defense against the charges.
Phone lines are open 24 hours daily at (215) 752-5282. Call today for a free initial consultation, or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response.