How Online Interactions with Minors Can Lead to Criminal Charges
The internet makes it easy to find and connect with people from all over the world. You become Facebook friends with someone, follow them on Instagram or TikTok, or DM them on Twitter or Snapchat. Plenty of online conversations are harmless. But if the person you are talking to is under 18, you could be putting yourself at serious risk of saying or doing something that brings legal trouble your way.
Improper contact with children is a major peril of the internet. Teenagers are online constantly and 20 percent of those recently surveyed said they received a sexual solicitation at some point. According to profile data gathered by The Journal of Public Policy, convicted child predators often communicated with victims online, had telephone conversations, exchanged pictures or offered or sent gifts or money prior to attempting in-person meetings.
In Pennsylvania, conversations and exchanges of media or other materials with minors online can result in such criminal charges as:
- Enticing or soliciting a child — It is illegal to communicate with a minor for an illicit purpose, such as luring the child to an encounter. The communication may occur on the internet through social media, multiplayer video games, messaging apps, chat rooms, email or text messages. Depending on the circumstances, such an offense can be a first-degree misdemeanor carrying penalties of two and a half to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Sexual abuse of a child — It is illegal to cause or permit a child to participate in sexual acts that may be photographed or recorded, to photograph or record a child engaged in such acts or to disseminate material showing children engaged in such acts. The offense is a third-degree felony carrying a prison term of three and a half to seven years and a fine of up to $30,000.
- Child pornography — State and federal laws make it illegal to create, distribute, receive or possess child pornography, defined as sexual or sexually suggestive imagery of children. Depending on the exact crime charged, a defendant could face a prison term of up to 40 years if convicted.
Cyberbullying of a child, known in Pennsylvania law as cyber-harassment, is defined as communicating with someone online with a purpose of harassment, making use of:
- Threats to inflict harm on the person or their property
- Seriously disparaging statements about the child’s physical characteristics, sexuality, sexual activity or mental or physical health
Cyber-harassment can be charged as a third-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 for a first offense. Additionally, some actions prohibited in Pennsylvania also violate federal cyberstalking laws, which could result in federal felony charges.
The Law Offices of David Jay Glassman in Philadelphia handles defense of serious internet crime cases across Pennsylvania. We will fight to protect your reputation and freedom. Call us anytime, 24 hours a day, at 215-563-7100 or contact us online.