Grove’s Sexting Legislation Passes House Today

Legislation authored by Rep. Seth Grove (R-Dover) to address teens sending sexually explicit images of themselves to other teens passed the House today and will now go to the Senate for its consideration.

“House Bill 2189 will update our criminal laws to make them reflective of the problems we face with from ever-advancing technology,” said Grove.  “This bill will allow prosecutors to adjudicate youth appropriately, so as not to ruin a teen’s life before it has begun.  Instead of facing harsh felony charges under child pornography laws, this legislation will set new guidelines to send a clear message that the practice of ‘sexting’ among teens will not be tolerated.”

With the addition of an amendment passed Monday, the legislation would create a tiered system, depending on the specific circumstances in question, with offenses ranging from summary to misdemeanors of the second degree as follows:

Summary charges could apply if a minor knowingly transmits a visual depiction of himself or herself engaging in sexually explicit conduct, and this image is sent to another teen who is known to the sender and a willing recipient.

Second-degree misdemeanor charges could be applied if a minor knowingly transmits or disseminates a visual depiction of himself or herself engaged in sexually explicit conduct; knowingly photographs, videotapes or depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or intentionally views or knowingly possesses a visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Because the legislation does not reference the act of a minor transmitting or disseminating sexually explicit images of another minor, felony charges could still apply.

The legislation also specifies adjudication alternatives, would seal the identity of minors charged with sexting-related crimes, provides for expungement and would prohibit placement in a secure detention facility for minors charged with sexting.  Electronic devices used in violation of the law could be seized by the Commonwealth.

“One aspect of the bill that I am particularly pleased with is the stipulation that teens charged with summary sexting would still be required to appear before a magisterial district judge,” said Grove.  “We cannot assume that sexting is a normal expression of adolescent sexuality.  As we have found in Mifflin County with the case of a girl who sexted to act out against abuse, it can also be a cry for help.  This legislation will allow law enforcement to investigate and ultimately discover cases of rape, incest, molestation or dating violence.”

Grove noted the failure of an amendment that would have completely decriminalized sexting by minors.

“Decriminalizing these acts would be, in a way, sanctioning sexting, and could lead to the exploitation of our youth,” said Grove.  “I am very pleased with the current language of this bill, and I believe it will be an important tool for district attorneys who have sought options for addressing teen sexting.  I am hopeful the Senate will consider this legislation soon.”

Representative Seth Grove
196th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

(717) 767-3947

Contact:  Nicole Wamsley or (717) 783-8063

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