Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation Thursday that softens the criminal-record blow to children 12 and older who exchange nude photographs via technology, a trend commonly called sexting.
The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover.
Grove's legislation applies only to photos transmitted among youth ages 12 to 17. The goal is to hold minors accountable for their actions, without ruining their future with a criminal record, he has said.
The bill addresses the issue that there had been 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 sex-offender registry.
Under the new law, sexting penalties range from summary to felony offense. A consensual exchange and viewing of photos would be a summary offense. If a minor views and passes along a received photo to another minor, this would be a third-degree misdemeanor offense.
Sexting becomes a second-degree offense when a minor transmits a photo to harass the minor who is in the photo.
In cases where a minor is found guilty of sexting, the new law allows judges to refer the minor to a diversionary or educational program. The minor's record would be expunged upon successfully completing the program.
The bill does not change the law for adults, who could be prosecuted under felony child pornography charges if they purposely view or transmit a photo of a minor.
The state's General Assembly passed the bill last week with a 188-3 vote in the House and a 37-12 vote in the Senate.