Teenagers caught sexting their friends will now pay a smaller price, thanks to a new law passed this year.
Under former law, sexting -- sending lewd pictures via cell phone -- was considered a child pornography felony for minors, Rep. Seth Grove, R-York said.
The new bill, H.B. 815, reduces the penalties to a summary offense or a third degree misdemeanor, depending on the circumstance of the case, according to a press release issued from the Centre County Office of the District Attorney.
“Our technology is ever changing,” Grove said. “I began working on the bill in 2008. As new ways to send photos come out, the law must try to keep up.”
A third degree misdemeanor can be expunged from a criminal record and would likely involve community service, Grove said.
“There must be a complaint for police to get involved,” Grove said. “We don't want people to think we're going into schools and confiscating phones. A warrant is needed, and in most minor cases, it can be resolved with parental involvement.”
State College Police Community relations and crime prevention specialist Kelly Aston said the new law is a tiered system, which enables police to handle any charges more appropriately.
“It is a common sense approach to a modern problem,” Aston said. “It will not damage them long term, but they will learn their lesson.”
The new law will go into effect Dec. 14, Aston said.
Tor Michaels, chief of staff for Scott Conklin, D-Centre
“I think sexting between two adults is one thing,” said Cristina Infanzon (senior – international politics). “But when a minor is involved, it's a different issue.”
Today, sexting is not just limited to camera phone photos. Snapchat is a free iPhone app that allows a person to take and send a picture and control how long it is visible by the person who receives it –– up to 10 seconds –– according to the Apple App Store.
Launching last September, Snapchat is number 4 in the “free” category of the Apple Store, according to Forbes.com. On Thanksgiving, the app sent 1000 photos every second according to Forbes.
Rachel Yeager (senior – telecommunications), said she thinks the app is growing rapidly in popularity.
“My sister is in high school, and she uses Snapchat all day with her friends,” Yeager said.
Former Stanford student Evan Spiegel created the app while still at Standford and claims it is not designed for sexting, according to a TechCrunch article .
“I'm not convinced that the whole sexting thing is a as big as the media makes it out to be,” Spiegel said. “I just don't know people that do that.”
Whether kids realize it now or not, risky behavior can have consequences, Chief of Staff for Scott Conklin, D-Centre Tor Michaels said.
“A split second can change everything, Michaels said.