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Pa. Set to Reduce Penalty for Teen Sexting

by guest blogger Mike Bock

Pennsylvania's legislature could soon downgrade teen-to-teen sexting to a misdemeanor in a move that could save dozens of middle- and high-school aged students from going to jail on child pornography charges and placed on a sex offender registry.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that House Bill 815 has passed through both chambers of Pennsylvania's legislature, and is expected to be signed by Gov. Tom Corbett. Current law allows any individual in possession of sexually explicit images of a minor to be prosecuted for child pornography charges, but the new bill calls for a reduced penalty for minors:

Under House Bill 815, youths 12 to 17 who send, view, or disseminate sexually explicit images can be charged with a misdemeanor or summary offense, depending on the circumstances. Instead of jail time and a tarnished future, offenders will be allowed to enter a diversionary educational program and afterward have their records wiped clean.

There is no consensus among current state laws about the punishment for sexting. Various health organizations have argued that national standards of sex-education for middle- and high-school students could cut down on the practice, although recent studies suggest sexting isn't actually that common among teens.

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