In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to:
Send sexually explicit* photos or videos of yourself or another person who is 12-17 years old to someone else if you're under 18. This is a summary offense.
Keep sexually explicit* photos or videos of people who are 12-17 years old, regardless of how you got them. This is a summary offense.
Secretly take nude* photos or videos of another person who is 12-17 years old. This is a third-degree misdemeanor.
Send nude* photos or videos of another person who is 12-17 years old to someone else without that person's permission. This is a second-degree misdemeanor.
Wondering if that picture or video on your phone or computer could get you in legal trouble in Pennsylvania? Our flowchart will help you understand the law and the consequences.
*To find out what these terms mean, visit the Sexting Definitions page.
Sexting in the News
A summary offense is the least serious of the charges for sexting and considered a non-serious crime. When charged with a summary offense, many times you will get a citation (similar to a traffic ticket), have to pay a fine, and have a conviction on your record. However, a judge may consider referring you to a diversionary (educational) program that erases the charge from your record when you complete the program. Juveniles charged with summary offenses will have their cases tried by a magisterial district justice.
Third-Degree and Second-Degree Misdemeanors
Misdemeanors are considered more serious crimes than summary offenses, and are separated into three degrees. Third-degree is the least severe of those classes, while second-degree is more severe.
Punishments associated with misdemeanors include fines, probation, and juvenile detention.
Misdemeanor cases are tried by juvenile courts. If you are under 18 and convicted of a misdemeanor, a juvenile court judge can place you in juvenile detention. Juvenile detention centers hold young people up to the age of 21.