Governor Signs Grove Bill to Reduce Penalties for Teen Sexting
HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett today signed into law Rep. Seth Grove’s (R-Dover) House Bill 815, now Act 198 of 2012, which creates a tiered system to adjudicate cases of teen sexting. Currently, individuals involved in these cases can be prosecuted for felony child pornography, but the new law will reduce consensual sexting between minors over the age of 12 to a summary offense.
“Law enforcement agencies from across Pennsylvania are in favor of this legislation, and I thank them for their assistance in helping to bring this new law to fruition,” said Grove. “Our goal has always been to send the message to teens that this behavior is illegal, while also saving them from a lifetime of the negative effects of a felony prosecution as a sexual offender. I believe this legislation is a suitable balance to achieve this objective.”
The new law makes sending or viewing “consensually” sexted images a summary offense, reducing these acts from the current felony grading.
A minor who knowingly transmits, distributes, publishes or disseminates a sexually explicit image of another minor who is 12 or older could be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor.
A minor who takes a photo of another minor in a state of nudity, either with or without that person’s consent, and transmits or distributes that photo without the other’s knowledge or consent with the intention of coercing, intimidating, harassing or causing emotional distress could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
“Any teen who thinks about taking or sending these types of images needs to seriously consider the consequences,” said Grove. “Before sending a nude photo, any person, regardless of age, should contemplate if he or she would want that photo showing up on a billboard in his or her hometown. That is essentially what happens in these cases, but the images are out there on a digital billboard for anyone to see.”
A recent study by the Internet Watch Foundation found that 88 percent of sexted images eventually end up on pornographic websites. In York County, sexted images of teens were found on the computer of a convicted sex offender.
Grove noted that his intention is to protect teens and to raise awareness of the dangers of sexting, which has led to harassment, bullying, suicide, sexual exploitation and being labeled as a sex offender.
“Sexting can ruin your life,” said Grove. “Part of my mission in authoring this law was to raise awareness of the threat sexting causes to children. I encourage parents to talk to their kids about sexting and its dangers. Protecting Pennsylvania’s children has to be a partnership between law enforcement, parents, schools and the entire community.”
Act 198 will take effect in 60 days. More information about Grove and his legislative priorities is available at www.RepGrove.com
State Representative Seth Grove
196th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Nicole Wamsley