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Is Sexting a Crime?

Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. July 14, 2022

In our modern age of smartphones and social media, it’s no wonder that so many of our interactions with others occur digitally. While this may make communication easier in a lot of ways, it can also complicate things when it comes to sharing images and videos of a sexual nature (referred to as “sexting”). This is especially true when minors are involved because sexting with a minor and sexting without consent can be considered crimes. Even so, sexting is very common among young people. In a recent study of Pennsylvania high school students, nearly 30% of respondents reported having participated in consensual sexting. 

If you have concerns or questions about a sexting crime, call my office at Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys At Law, P.C. for help in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or the surrounding areas, including Shaler Township, Ross Township, Fox Chapel, O’Hara Township, Penn Hills, Oakmont Borough, Indiana Township, and Aspinwall.

What Is Sexting?

Sexting refers to sending any sexually explicit or suggestive images or videos to another person through a digital device like a tablet, computer, or smartphone. There is nothing inherently illegal about sharing images with someone else, but sexting becomes complicated because issues of consent come into play, which is not always easy to determine. Additionally, sexting is also extremely prevalent with young people, and this can easily turn into a crime when minors are involved—regardless of whether there was consent.

Sexting as a Crime

Sexting is not considered a crime when done between two consenting adults. However, it would be considered illegal if one of the consenting parties then uses the sexually-explicit images without the other person’s permission. This is commonly known as “revenge porn,” and there are recent laws in the state that prohibit this. However, the most serious criminal charges for sexting involve minors.

In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for a minor to share a sexually explicit image or video with another minor who’s over the age of 12 but under the age of 18. It’s also illegal to possess a sexually-explicit image or video of a minor between the ages of 12 and 18, regardless of how you acquired it. It is always a crime for an adult to send or receive sexually explicit images of a minor.

Possible Penalties 

Because the state recognizes that minors may not be fully aware of the future consequences of their actions, they have imposed more lenient charges and penalties for those under the age of 18. Charges can range from a summary offense to a second-degree misdemeanor, and the penalties can include having your device confiscated, mandatory participation in a diversion program, fines, or even jail time.

If the defendant is an adult (over the age of 18) and the victim is a minor, the charges and penalties are much more severe since this may be classified as child pornography. These crimes can be charged as second- or third-degree felonies with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 fines. 

Possible Defenses 

If you’re facing a sexting crime—regardless of how old you are—you need to reach out to a criminal defense attorney immediately. Pennsylvania treats these cases very seriously, and you need someone in your corner who can advocate for your rights. The specifics of your case will inform the possible defenses of a sexting crime, but the most common one is that you truly believed you had consent from the other party. If the charges involved a minor, you could contend that you thought they were of age and that they deliberately misled you about their age. 

Get Reliable Representation Today

Even if you think your charges are minor, it’s still in your best interest to hire an attorney. At Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys At Law, P.C., I can review your case, listen to your side of the story, and look for inconsistencies in the prosecution's argument. The possible penalties for a conviction can be devastating and severely impact your future; you can’t risk this. If you’re in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area, call me today to schedule a consultation.