State Rep. Seth Grove's sexting bill awaits the governor's signature to become a law.
The legislation, which received bipartisan support, establishes penalty guidelines for minors who exchange nude photographs via technology.
The state House passed the bill 188-3 shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday. The Senate voted to pass the measure 37-12 earlier in the day, according to Grove, R-Dover Township.
Gov. Tom Corbett could sign the bill within the next several days, Grove said.
Grove's bill applies only to photos transmitted between youths ages 12 to 17. The goal is to hold minors accountable for their actions without ruining their future with a criminal record, he said.
The bill addresses the issue that there are no sexting or cyberbullying laws on the books in Pennsylvania, meaning a guilty minor could face felony child pornography charges and the possibility of being listed on the state's Megan's Law sex-offender registry.
"I think that it's great that we're taking steps to reflect changes in technology to update our laws and protect children from (sexting) and send the message that we don't support child pornography," Grove said. "It's illegal, and we'll match up the proper penalties of the crime."
Penalties: In the recently passed bill, sexting penalties range from summaries to felonies. A consensual exchange and viewing of photos would be a summary offense, Grove said. Summary citations are non-traffic tickets.
"As soon as you send the photos, it's a summary offense," he said. "As soon as you create a picture, even of yourself, you're creating child pornography. The whole issue is to not get these pictures taken in the first place, to stop people from taking these pictures at all."
If a minor views and passes along a received photo to another minor it would be a third-degree misdemeanor offense, punishable by fines and possible prison sentences of up to a year.
Sexting becomes a second-degree misdemeanor -- punishable by fines and up to two years in prison -- when a minor transmits a photo to harass the minor who is in the photo, Grove said.
"That's where we're getting into the issue of cyber bullying," he said.
Expungements: In cases where a minor is found guilty of sexting, Grove's bill would allow judges to refer the minor to a diversionary or educational program. The minor's record would be expunged upon successfully completing the program.
Also, the child would be required to hand over devices used for sexting.
"This legislation has always been about sending the message to teenagers that sexting is not OK, and it can have serious consequences," Grove said. "We also realize that immaturity and inexperience can lead to very poor choices, and no teenager should see his or her life shattered because of one thoughtless indiscretion."
Minors who received illegal images without any intention of viewing them would not be charged if they immediately delete those images, Grove said.
Bill's history: He said the legislation is supported by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the state police, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association and the Fraternal Order of Police.
The representative said he began work on the sexting bill in 2008. He introduced a bill in 2010 that passed in the House but didn't get through the Senate.
Last year, the bill only passed in the House 178-20.
The initial bill -- which made sexting a second-degree misdemeanor -- was amended in the Senate appropriations committee to include a tiered system of penalties, Grove said.
The bill does not change the existing law for adults, who can face felony child pornography charges if they purposely view or transmit a photo of a minor.
Photos depicting lewd or graphic sexual behavior involving minors would not be covered under this legislation but would fall under existing felony child pornography charges.
-- Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at email@example.com.