John Evans Reports.. 05-27-11

Representative John Evans


Teens Should Learn Difficult Lesson from Sexting but Not Be Scarred for Life

By Rep. John Evans (R-Erie/Crawford)

The trend of sexting – sending electronic images of sexual acts and/or unclothed individuals – is rapidly growing in our society, especially among our youth. A young lady takes a nude photo of herself, sends it to her boyfriend via her cell phone, and within a matter of seconds, that image could be distributed to potentially hundreds of people.

Sadly, sexting can have a devastating emotional impact upon its victims. It has led to ridicule and bullying, and in some cases, sexual exploitation and suicide. It’s a nationwide epidemic.

While this trend is disturbing and consequences need to be dealt to those teens who knowingly send these messages with the intent of hurting or embarrassing someone, the Legislature recently faced the question of whether or not these teens should be punished for life.

Right now, individuals of any age – whether 16 or 46 – caught sexting images of a minor can face felony child pornography charges and inclusion on the state’s Megan’s Law Registry for sex offenders.

House Bill 815, which passed the House on May 23, changes that for minors found to be sexting. The legislation would create a new crime of sexting by a minor age 13 to 17 and would apply only to nude photos transmitted among teens. Additionally, photos depicting lewd or graphic sexual behavior involving minors would not be covered under this legislation, and would continue to fall under existing felony child pornography charges.

When child pornography laws were enacted, there was a clear distinction between adults and minors. There was no thought that someday, with the technology people of all ages have access to, people would be sending such graphic and potentially embarrassing images to each other. This legislation seeks to clarify state law and put in place appropriate, but still strict, measures to address these cases of sexting.

Our intent with this legislation is not to let teens off with a slap on the wrist. In fact, minors who are caught sexting and prosecuted would face a second-degree misdemeanor. Punishment would not include incarceration, but would allow a teen to enter into a diversionary alternative and then have his or her record expunged. We know that teens can make thoughtless mistakes without considering the potentially lifelong consequences of their actions, and this proposal is a means by which to protect teens from their own carelessness.

If an adult were to purposely view or transmit a photo of a minor, he or she still could be prosecuted under felony child pornography charges.

House Bill 815 will now go to the Senate for its consideration.

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John Evans Reports is a weekly editorial from Rep. John Evans, 5th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and published by EdinboroOnline.com in an effort to keep the citizens of the area informed on matters of importance to them. Rep. Evans can be reached for further comment or input at his Edinboro Pa office 814-734-2793, Girard, Pa office 814-774-2892, or his Linesville, PA office 814-683-5550. www.repevans.com

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