State Rep. Seth Grove's sexting bill awaits the governor's signature to become a law.
The legislation, which received bipartisan support, makes sexting -- or exchanging nude photographs via technology -- illegal and holds minors responsible for their actions.
The House passed the bill 188-3 shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday. The Senate voted to pass the measure 37-12 earlier in the day, according to Grove, R-Dover Township.
Governor Tom Corbett could sign the bill late Wednesday or within the next several days, Grove said.
"I think that it's great that we're taking steps to reflect changes in technology to update our laws and protect children from (sexting) and send the message that we don't support child pornography," Grove said. "It's illegal, and we'll match up the proper penalties of the crime.
He said the legislation is supported by the Pennsylvania District Attorney Association, the state police, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association and the Fraternal Order of Police.
The representative said he began work on the sexting bill in 2008.
Sexting normally occurs via cell phones when people exchange nude photos of themselves. The practice has become popular in recent years as cell phones became more widely used and hi-tech.
Grove's bill applies only to such photos transmitted among youth ages 12 to 17.
He introduced a sexting bill in 2010 that passed in the House but didn't get through the senate.
Last year, the bill only passed in the House, 178-20.
The bill -- which made sexting a second-degree misdemeanor -- was amended in the Senate appropriations committee to include a tiered system of penalties, Grove said.
That was the bill the Senate and House on Wednesday.
In the passed bill, sexting penalties range from summary to felony offense. A consensual exchange and viewing of photos would be a summary offense, Grove said.
"As soon as you send the photos, it's a summary offense," he said. "As soon as you create a picture, even of yourself, you're creating child pornography. The whole issue is to not get these pictures taken in the first place, to stop people from taking these pictures at all."
Minors who received illegal images without any intention of viewing them will not be charged if they immediately delete those images, Grove said.
If a minor views and passes along a received photo to another minor, this would be a third-degree misdemeanor offense.
Sexting becomes a second-degree offense when a minor transmits a photo to harass the minor who is in the photo, Grove said.
"That's where we're getting into the issue of cyber bullying," he said.
The bill does not change the law for adults, who could be prosecuted under felony child pornography charges if they purposely view or transmit a photo of a minor.
Photos depicting lewd or graphic sexual behavior involving minors would not be covered under this legislation but would fall under existing felony child pornography charges.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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