Electronic Sex Crimes

Roughly 90% of people in the U.S. now have some means of access to the internet. In recent years, forms of sexually-oriented electronic crime have also become increasingly more common. For example, the FBI considers child pornography to be among the “fastest-growing” types of criminal activity in the country, which is predominately conducted online. People charged with these serious offenses can face significant criminal penalties and harsh collateral consequences; therefore, accused individuals are strongly encouraged to promptly contact a skilled criminal defense attorney.

Types of Offenses

Obscene and Other Sexual Material and Performances (§ 5903)

Prohibits exhibiting or displaying sexually-explicit material in windows, signboards, marquees, or a picture or otherwise viewable screens, that is visible to the minors. This also applies to the dissemination of advertisements containing sexually-explicit material through electronic communications without including "ADV-ADULT" in the subject line. Intentionally disseminating sexual material to minors through "sale, loan, or otherwise" is prohibited. Depending on the circumstances, these offenses may be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor or a second or third-degree felony.

Unlawful Dissemination of Intimate Image (§ 3131)

It is unlawful to disseminate sexually-explicit images that depict a current or former intimate partner with an “intent to harass, annoy, or alarm.” The offense is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor if the depicted individual is a minor, otherwise, it is a second-degree misdemeanor. Asserting that the images were disseminated with the consent of the individual that is depicted is a potentially viable defense.

Sexual Extortion (§ 3133)

This is an offense is committed by purposely coercing someone to engage in real or simulated sexual conduct or disseminating images, videos, or another recording that depicts the individual participating in sexual conduct or a state of nudity. This coercion is deemed as sexual extortion when the victim is threatened with harm related to their reputation, property, or something else of value. The perpetrator may threaten to disseminate explicit material depicting the victim or expose information that could potentially result in a criminal or civil action, embarrassment, loss of employment, harm to a family member, or other consequences.

This offense may also occur when a perpetrator demands something of value in exchange for removing sexually explicit material from public view. Based on the circumstances, the offense is charged as either a first-degree misdemeanor or third-degree felony. Pennsylvania's sentencing guidelines allow for enhanced penalties when the victim is a minor (under 18) or has some intellectual impairment or related disability. This also applies when the perpetrator holds some position of responsibility for the victim, such as the role of a supervisor based on employment.

Sexual Abuse of Children (§ 6312)

Applies when someone permits a child to engage in unlawful sexual acts that involve taking photographs or videos. This also may involve someone who knowingly sells, distributes, displays, or otherwise disseminates such material. Child pornography is an offense involving intentionally viewing, possessing, or having control of any film, photo, or other depiction of a minor engaging in sexual acts or simulated sexual activity.

Based on the circumstances of the offense, it may be a felony charge of the first, second, or third degree. Claiming to be unaware that the person depicted is a minor is not a viable defense. Asserting that a minor misrepresented their age is also not a permissible defense in these cases.

Transmission of Sexually Explicit Images by a Minor (§ 6321)

Minors are prohibited from intentionally disseminating, posting, or transmitting sexually explicit material of themselves via any forms of electronic communication. Minors are prohibited from knowingly viewing or having possession of sexually explicit material depicting a minor that is age 12 or older. Both of these are charged as being summary offenses.

The offense may be enhanced to a third-degree misdemeanor if the minor is intentionally disseminating, posting, or transmitting sexually explicit material of another minor that is age 12 or older via any forms of electronic communication. The offense may be enhanced to a second-degree misdemeanor if a minor creates a visual depiction of a minor or disseminates, posts, or transmits such material with the “intent to coerce, intimidate, torment, or harass” another minor.

Levels of Criminal Offenses and Penalties in Pennsylvania

Level of Offense

Maximum Period of Imprisonment

Maximum Fines

First Degree Felony

Up to 20 years

$25,000

Second Degree Felony

Up to 10 years

$25,000

Third Degree Felony

Up to 7 years

$15,000

First Degree Misdemeanor

Up to 5 years

$10,000

Second Degree Misdemeanor

Up to 2 years

$5,000

Third Degree Misdemeanor

Up to 1 years

$2,500

Summary Offense

Up to 90 days in jail

$1,000

Understanding Megan's Law

According to Megan's Law, the Pennsylvania State Police maintain a centralized registry of individuals that have been convicted or adjudicated delinquent for many sexually-based criminal offenses. This applies to offenders who are Pennsylvania residents or those who work or attend school in the state. The Pennsylvania General Assembly intended to enhance public safety by having access to information about those required to register as sex offenders.

The registry now contains information regarding approximately 20,000 offenders. There are more than 500 offenders that are not compliant with the registration and updating requirements. Following a conviction, certain offenders must visit an approved location for the initial registration, which must then be updated as needed when changing residences, location of employment, schools, etc.

Benefits of Having a Seasoned Defense Attorney for Sexual Criminal Allegations

Many of Pennsylvania's criminal court venues are faced with an insurmountable caseload. As a result, members of the prosecutorial staff may attempt to take “shortcuts” and move hurriedly through case proceedings without properly acknowledging the rights of those accused. Sexually-related crimes can have very serious repercussions. Individuals charged with these offenses must promptly seek legal representation that is well-versed in this unique realm of practice.

Contact a Knowledgeable Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyer

Those arrested and facing charges associated with electronic sex crimes often face life-altering ramifications that may include a lengthy prison sentence. Joseph D. Lento is an experienced attorney that knows what it takes to effectively defend clients in these types of cases. Please contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for additional information. 

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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