Even if you're under 18, it'll still be breaking the law.
House Bill 815 of 2012 was approved by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and signed by Gov. Tom Corbett on Oct. 25.
The new law makes the transmission of sexually explicit images by a minor a criminal offense. The law even contains a provision outlining penalties for minors sending images of themselves.
The law deals largely with the transmission, distribution, publication or dissemination through electronic communication, such as through e-mail, social networking or cell phone.
"We have had many instances of minors sending sexually explicit pictures. These can be harmful," Warren County District Attorney Ross McKeirnan said. "We have tried to address these sexting issues in the schools.'
The law makes it a summary offense for a minor to transmit sexually explicit images of himself or herself, or view sexually explicit images of a fellow minor who is 12 years old or older.
If the image transmitted was of another minor 12 years old or older, the minor could be charged with a third degree misdemeanor.
If the minor's intent was, "to coerce, intimidate, torment, harass or otherwise cause emotional distress," the crime is graded as a more serious second-degree misdemeanor .
The second-degree misdemeanor provision includes a section including the act of making a visual depiction of a nude minor without their knowledge or consent with the intent to, "to coerce, intimidate, torment, harass or otherwise cause emotional distress."
The law also includes a provision for sentencing offenders to an educational program on the consequences of sending explicit images.
Property used to perpetrate an offense under the law, such as cell phones and computers, would be subject to forfeiture.
The law is designed to deal with harassment issues, as section 6312 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Code already addresses child pornography. Section 6312 specifies images of children under 18, not just minors over 12, "depicted for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification," are included in it's scope. The bill denotes section 6312 takes precedence over the new provisions.
"I agree with the bill," Warren County Sheriff Ken Klakamp said.
Klakamp, however, questioned the lack of a provision for dealing with repeat offenders in the new law.
"My thoughts are that if you have a minor who is a repeat offender, there is strong evidence that something is wrong," Klakamp said. "More severe sanctions (might be appropriate) including counseling."
McKeirnan hopes the measure will aid in stemming a growing problem.
"I try to tell minors, and adults as well, that if you allow a sexual picture to be taken of you, you might just as well expect it will become public. It's just the nature of today's electronic media," McKeirnan said. "This bill will put some teeth into the prosecution's ability to confront this issue."