Sex Crimes Archives | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC

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The Problem with Online Sex Crime Sting Operations

The police will do anything to catch a suspect. They will even create fake situations online to engage people who may not have committed a sex crime without the opportunity created by the cops.

An online sex crime sting involves the police taking advantage of innocent individuals who have not yet engaged in criminal activity. In many cases, this entrapment is the catalyst of illegal activity.

What Is an Online Sex Sting Operation?

During an online sex sting operation, the police create an opportunity for a person to commit a sex crime. When they do, the police arrest them, and the prosecution files charges against them.

While sting operations have been frequent for decades, they have become even more accessible with internet use. In the past, the police would have to identify a target person or area and set up an undercover cop in a geographic area.

These sting operations often required significant investigation of crime in an area and familiarity with the community. In many cases, the police would have an informant clue them in on a situation that might go down, and the police would strategically place themselves in a position to catch a particular person.

Today, the police use the internet to cast a wide net across the United States to capture people they may not even suspect. They often create situations where people engage in criminal activity that those people would not have acted without the prompting of the police.

How Do Police Conduct a Sting Operation?

An online sex sting operation often involves an undercover police officer pretending to be a young person or another individual who is soliciting illegal sex.

The Officer Attracts the Potential Offender

The police officer may post content on social media or within chat rooms to lure an offender into the situation. Once the potential offender engages in conversation with the individual, the police begin recording the interaction.

The Police May Use Illegal Tactics to Catch Offenders

Police officers may or may not reveal that they are underage in initial conversations. They may also send child pornography to catch a suspect. The police take many steps that would be considered illegal in an attempt to catch a potential offender.

Law Enforcement Arrest the Alleged Offender at a Meeting

The undercover police officer may offer illegal sexual interaction and agree to meet with the potential offender. When the person arrives at the meeting location, they will encounter police officers who arrest them for attempting to commit a sex crime.

Are Police Allowed to Conduct Sting Operations?

Pennsylvania’s Wire Tap Act (Title 18 Pa. C.S. §5701 et seq) makes it legal for the police to entrap potential offenders who seek out and travel to have sexual relationships with minors.

Thus, PA police are allowed to pretend to be minors and engage in typically illegal activity in an attempt to catch a sex crime suspect.

What Charges and Penalties Could You Face?

You may face multiple charges if you are caught engaging in illegal sex crimes. Those charges may all be based on one action or conversation you have with an undercover cop. There is no requirement that you have continuous interactions with the police or meet or have sex with the individual.

Potential Charges You Could Face

Some charges you may face for internet sex crimes include:

All these crimes are felony offenses, resulting in significant prison time and the potential for expensive fines.

You Could Face Severe Penalties

A first-degree felony is the most severe type of felony criminal charge in Pennsylvania. You will face between 10 and 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. A second-degree felony will result in 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. A third-degree felony will result in between 3.5 and 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Sex Offender Registration

Additionally, for most of these crimes, you will be listed on a sex offender list that is publicly available. Once you are released from prison, you may be limited on where you can live and work. Many of the rights you take for granted will be affected.

When Is a Sex Sting Operation Entrapment?

Entrapment occurs when the police create a situation that leads to a crime that would not have happened without the opportunity created by the cops. The suspect would never have committed the crime if the police had not set them up.

How Does an Attorney Prove Entrapment?

The police may argue that the individual would have engaged in the illegal activity regardless. However, this is not true in many situations.

A successful argument that the entrapment violated the defendant’s rights requires proof that without the influence of the police, the defendant would not have been part of the crime.

Call Us If You Were Involved in an Online Sex Crime Sting

Allegations of a sex crime are severe. You should never try to clear your name by explaining the situation to the police.

They will use everything you say against you. Instead, if you believe you were involved in an online sex crime sting, you should immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer who can help protect your rights.

Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146 or contact us online to schedule a case consultation.

Collateral Consequences of a PA Sex Crimes Conviction

A conviction for a Pennsylvania sex crime will have serious repercussions that extend much deeper into your life than you might think. Everybody knows about criminal penalties such as incarceration and fines, but many are surprised to learn about the collateral consequences that you face after a criminal conviction. These refer to the consequences that flow from having a criminal conviction on your record, such as restricted employment opportunities. And when it comes to sex crimes, these collateral consequences are severe and sometimes permanent.

When a prosecutor offers you a plea deal, they’ll usually dangle the prospect of a reduced sentence or a conviction for a lesser offense. What they won’t tell you is that by accepting a plea deal, you’re essentially signing up for collateral consequences that can ruin your personal and professional lives. For this reason, it’s essential that you do not accept a plea agreement before speaking with an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer. If you’ve been charged with a sex crime, call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC now at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation.

Sex Offenders Face the Harshest Collateral Consequences

The collateral consequences of any criminal conviction can put the brakes on your dreams, but the collateral consequences of a sex crimes conviction can make your life a nightmare. The consequences can include:

  • A Ruined Reputation–Your criminal record is publically available. Furthermore, many sex offenders are required to register on a government-run database that will include your photo, place of employment, license plate, home address, and even your email address and social media accounts. As a result, you may lose old friendships and be unable to make new ones. Landlords may be unwilling to rent you an apartment, and as sex offender, you may be banned from living anywhere near schools or playgrounds.
  • A Compromised Career–Most employers perform background checks on candidates, and finding out about a sex crime conviction is usually a deal breaker. If your profession is governed by a licensing board, they may decide to suspend your license if they learn of the conviction. Finally, sex offenders are legally barred from certain professions such as child care.
  • Loss of Civil Rights–If convicted of a felony level sex offense, you will permanently lose your right to own firearms. You will lose the right to vote, but this right is restored once you get out of prison. And as a felon, you will no longer be allowed to serve on a jury.
  • Restricted Access to Public Aid–Whether you need to apply for financial aid for college, or you need housing assistance to put a roof over your head, you will find that your criminal conviction can severely limit your options.
  • Immigration Problems–Federal law prohibits non citizens who have been charged with a crime of “moral turpitude” from getting access to certain visas or residence permits. The definition of this type of offense is vague, but it includes most sex crimes. This means that as a non citizen you could face deportation after a sex crimes conviction.

After a sex crimes conviction, you could lose everything: your job, your home, your friends, your rights, and even your legal right to remain in the country. This is why you should make every effort to beat the charges while you still can. If you have been charged with a sex crime, do not talk with the police and do not accept a plea deal until you have spoken with an experienced legal professional.

A Lawyer Can Help You Avoid the Consequences of a Sex Crimes Conviction

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC we have a proven track record of obtaining good outcomes for our clients in high stakes cases. If you have been charged with a sex crime, we will pursue every possible avenue for proving your innocence, and ensure that your rights are respected at every step of the criminal justice process. For a free and confidential consultation about your case, call us today at (412) 281-2146.

Juvenile Sex Crimes: What to Do If Your Child Is Accused

If your child was accused of a sex crime, you may have many concerns, such as, will they be charged as an adult, will your child be required to register as a sex offender, will your child be facing time spent incarcerated? Juvenile sex cases can be emotionally charged, especially when the family knows the alleged victim.

Speak to an attorney right away if your child has been accused of a sex crime, because the initial stages of a police investigation are often the most crucial. Call our experienced defense lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 to learn about how we defend juvenile sex crimes.

Know Your Rights

Finding out your loved one has been accused of a sex offense can be scary. If your child was accused of a sex crime, you probably have many thoughts running through your head—whether they may be facing a charge that could follow them into adulthood. Police may have asked if they will appear at the police station for an interview. Speak to a lawyer before you agree to an interview about the best course of action in your case.

If your child is arrested and booked into a juvenile detention center, you must be promptly notified. The child can be held for up to 72 hours and during that time there must be a hearing regarding whether or not there is probable cause a crime was committed and whether it is safe for the juvenile to be released into the community or into the care of parent or guardian. Special conditions may be imposed by the hearing officer such as a curfew or electronic monitoring.

Juvenile Transfer Hearings

If your child is accused of a particularly serious offense such as rape, the case may be transferred to adult court. Juvenile transfer hearings are based on several factors such as:

  • The age of the defendant at the time the offense was committed
  • Whether or not the offense was of a violent nature, such as if weapons were used
  • The offender’s mental and emotional status at the time the offense was committed
  • The offender’s mental capacity to understand the nature of the offense and the proceedings against them
  • Whether there is treatment available through the juvenile court system that could prevent the commission of similar offenses

Keeping a case in juvenile court can help prevent your child from having to serve a lengthy prison sentence with adult offenders. A juvenile transfer hearing occurs in the pre-trial stage after the probable cause hearing and before a trial to determine guilt or innocence.

Understand Potential Penalties

If your child was charged as a juvenile, the potential penalties he or she may be facing are less than what they might face in the adult court system. Juvenile courts focus more on treatment than on punishment, but your child may still be facing time spent incarcerated, fines, and community service. If charged as an adult for a serious very offense such as rape, your child may be facing a term of years in a state correctional facility.

Conviction for a sex offense also carries a requirement to register as a sex offender. If placed on the registry, a sex offender must notify their local law enforcement agency any time they change their employment, contact information, or address.

If Your Child is a Student

If your child was a student at the time the juvenile sex crime allegedly occurred, the allegation could affect their standing in the institution, even if they are not proven guilty of the offense. If the alleged victim is a student at the same school, your child may be ordered not to attend the same classes or events and to stay a certain distance away from the student who has accused them.

Have an attorney present at every stage of the proceeding. Your child may be asked to participate in an administrative hearing that can result in expulsion from the school if the hearing examiner finds victim testimony credible. An attorney may be able to negotiate for an alternative solution, such as voluntary withdrawal for a semester or a year pending the outcome of the criminal case, since an expulsion for sexual misconduct can look worse on a student’s record than voluntary withdrawal.

Consult an Experienced Defense Attorney

Our defense lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC are ready to help if your child has been accused of a sex crime. It is important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible, because law enforcement may encourage you to give up important rights to try to build a case against your child, even if they are innocent. We may be able to find problems with the state’s case that could lead to a dismissal, a not guilty verdict, or a reduction of the charges. Contact us online or call (412) 281-2146 to schedule a consultation.

What Happens When You Fail to Register as a Sex Offender in Pennsylvania

Even after you serve your time for a sex offense conviction in Pennsylvania, there are reporting requirements under state law. If you fail to register as a sex offender, whether due to a mistake or other circumstances, the consequences are severe. Non-compliance with the registration statute is itself a crime, separate from the underlying offense. You face incarceration, fines, and other penalties, so it is critical to retain an experienced Pittsburgh sex crime lawyer.

Regardless of being charged with a sex crime, you still have rights throughout the legal process. The legal team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC will protect these rights by developing a solid strategy to fight the allegations against you. Contact us today at (412) 281-2146 to schedule a free consultation.

Pennsylvania Laws on Registration Requirements

Under the Adam Walsh Act, you must provide the following information to law enforcement officials if you have been convicted of a sex offense in Pennsylvania:

  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • Employment and professional information
  • Vehicle details and license plate
  • Email address, online profiles, and related information
  • Additional details as designated by law

If you committed a Tier I crime, you must register once a year for 15 years. If you were convicted of a Tier II offense, you’re required to register twice a year for 25 years. If you committed a Tier III crime, you must register four times per year for the rest of your life.

Violations of Pennsylvania’s Registration Laws

You could be charged with a crime for not complying with the legal requirements of sex offender registration, but a prosecutor must prove certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt. To obtain a conviction, the state must show that:

  • You did not initially register with the Pennsylvania State Police in the county where you were convicted, live, go to school, or work
  • You provided false or misleading information while complying with the registration requirements
  • You knowingly failed to verify your registration details on an ongoing basis

Criminal Penalties if You Fail to Register as a Sex Offender

If you are convicted of failure to register, the penalties depend on the circumstances of the underlying offense. If you fail to register as a Tier I offender, you may be convicted of a felony in the third degree, which is punishable by up to seven years’ incarceration. If you failure to register as a Tier I or II sex offender, you face second-degree felony charges. As such, a judge may sentence you up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Note that these are the criminal penalties for failure to register as a first offense. Subsequent violations could mean longer terms of incarceration.

Discuss Your Case with a Skilled Pittsburgh Sex Crime Lawyer

Considering the harsh penalties of failing to register as a sex offender, you can rely on the knowledgeable lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to advocate on your behalf throughout the criminal process. If you have questions or would like to schedule a free consultation, call us today at (412) 281-2146, or visit our website to fill out our contact form.

Avoiding the Harshest Penalties for Sex Crimes

Sex crimes are taken very seriously in the state of Pennsylvania. Penalties for these offenses are extremely harsh, with many sentences including massive fines and decades spent in state prison. Most sex crimes are felonies, only worsening how they are perceived in the eyes of the law. The key in successfully defending against sex crime charges is to get your charges dismissed or reduced in court. This can be done with the help of an experienced attorney.

If you have unfairly accused of a sex crime, you may be terrified of the penalties that could follow a conviction. You may also be concerned about how your family will be affected if you are found guilty. You may no longer be able to provide financial support, and interacting with those you love may be difficult. The Pittsburgh sex crimes lawyers at our firm understand how difficult these situations can be. With your concerns, the idea of mounting a defense can seem impossible. Our dedicated legal team will handle all of the technical aspects of your case, allowing you to focus on comforting your family.

To see how you can get your charges reduced or eliminated, call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 today.

Penalties and Collateral Consequences

In Pennsylvania, the penalties for committing sex crimes, such as rape and sexual assault, are steep. While each case has specific factors that determine the severity of criminal penalties, some consequences are more common than others. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Rape (First Degree Felony): Penalties for this crime include a fine of up to $25,000 and up to 20 years in prison. Probation is also commonly assigned upon release.
  • Sexual Assault (Second Degree Felony): This crime carries a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Probation is also commonly assigned upon release.
  • Indecent Assault (First Degree Misdemeanor): This crime is commonly punished with up to five years in prison. However, a second or subsequent offense can lead to a third-degree felony charge which can carry up to seven years in prison.

Believe it or not, there are punishments for sex crimes that can be even worse than spending time behind bars. After a person is released from prison, they will likely have to register as a sex offender. Crimes that commonly carry this penalty include rape, sexual assault, indecent exposure, and several other crimes. This registration period can last anywhere from 10 years to life. There are also collateral consequences that come with being convicted of a crime. Many business owners, for example, are reluctant to hire those with criminal records. It can also be all but impossible to continue your education, as many colleges request criminal background information prior to admissions. Many scholarships and grants will also be difficult to obtain.

Avoiding the Harsh Punishments of Sex Crimes

When fighting for your freedom in a court of law, it is important to remember that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. If they want a conviction, they will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a sex crime. For this reason, there are several defenses that can be used to help you avoid spending time in prison. One effective legal defense is proving that the supposed victim actually gave consent during the sexual activity in question. If they agreed to engage in a sexual activity, and they are not underage, you should not be convicted of a sex crime.

If, however, it is impossible to avoid a guilty verdict, it may be possible to reduce your sentence through a plea negotiation. In many cases, the prosecution might agree to eliminate prison time if you are willing to admit your guilt. They might also offer a lesser sentence if you can provide information regarding others who were involved in the crime. While a plea bargain can be an excellent way to maintain your freedom, it is very difficult to negotiate without the help of a skilled attorney. A lawyer can let you know whether you are being taken advantage of and help you create a counter offer that is more appropriate. They can guide you through the legal process, ensuring you know what to expect at every turn.

How Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC Can Fight for your Freedom

Being accused of such a serious crime can be a frightening experience. If you were falsely accused, it may seem as if the whole world has turned against you. Our experienced Pittsburgh sex crimes lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys realize how difficult these situations can be. However, we also know that there is typically a way to get penalties reduced or eliminated. We will fight tirelessly to defend your freedom, ensuring that your side of the story is told in court.

If you have been accused of a sex crime call (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation.

When is Sexting a Crime?

Now that virtually everyone has cell phones, more and more people are engaging in what is called sexting. Sexting involves texting nude or sexually provocative photos of oneself to another person. When done in the context of an adult relationship, it’s typically not a problem. However, when it is unwanted or minors are involved, sexting can become a crime.

If you are accused of a crime due to receiving and possessing sexts, get help from a Pittsburgh sex crimes lawyer. We will evaluate your situation and help you decide what steps to take next. Whether you need to protect yourself during an investigation or defend yourself in court, we can help. Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146.

Pennsylvania Teen Sexting Law

Sexting is not a crime only when it’s done between a teen and a much-older adult. Sexting is common in many high schools among peers and is still considered illegal.
In 2012, Pennsylvania legislators made it illegal to send sexually explicit images of a minor, even if those images were being sent by the person in the picture. The law specifically makes it illegal to:

  • Transmit, distribute, or share a text message or instant message containing nude images of any person 12 or older, but younger than 18
  • Possess a nude image of a person 12 or older, but younger than 18

Thus, not only is it a crime to send those sexts, but it is also illegal to possess them, even if they were sent by the person in the photo.

Age of Consent to Sexting

Age of consent is not considered in sexting. Although a person who is 17 may be able to consent to have sex, it is still illegal to send nude pictures to another person. It is also illegal to possess sexually explicit images of someone who is 17, even if you are having sex with that person with legal consent.

Taking or being in possession of pornographic photos featuring a person under age 18 is a crime, no matter what state you’re in. In some states, though, you can be 30, 40, 50, even 60 years old and allowed to legally date a 17-year-old. But if you were to be in possession of sexting photos from the 17-year-old, you could be charged with a crime. This is true even if you are in a relationship.

Adult Sexting Can Also Be Illegal

Sexting can also be considered a crime among adults. If one person is sending unwanted explicit photos to another person, and does not stop when asked, then the sender can be charged with harassment.

While sexting is often considered a misdemeanor in the state courts, it can be charged as a federal crime in certain situations. Federal law makes it a crime for a minor to pose for sexually explicit photos in order to distribute them to others. The sender of the photos will be prosecuted.

Get Legal Help If You’re Accused of Sexting

A charge of illegal sexting or child pornography has severe consequences. Besides jail time and other punishments, you could be dealing with the offense for the rest of your life. An innocent exchange of sexual images should not ruin your life. With the right criminal defense, you can avoid having to deal with these repercussions.

We can help you with this stressful time by providing you with a solid defense. Don’t fight your sexting case alone. Protect your rights by calling our Pittsburgh sex crime lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146.

PA Supreme Court Alters Life Sex Offender Registration Requirements

Lifetime registration for sex offenders is often controversial, particularly when individuals who committed minor sex crimes suffer a harsh penalty for the rest of their lives. People who are unlikely to harm others or recommit a sex crime are forced to continuously register with their state police their entire lives and abide by living and work restrictions. Considering that sex offender registration information is often public, lifetime registration can lead to severe discrimination, harassment, and ostracism.

Pennsylvania was forced to confront this problem when it became clear that the state police were requiring individuals with multiple convictions from one situation to register for life instead of 15 years. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined individuals are not required to register for life after a minor sex offense unless they commit a second sex crime. If you are currently required to register for life, contact an experienced Pittsburgh criminal attorney at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC.

Limiting Megan’s Law

Statute 42 Pa C.S. Section 9799.10 et seq. is informally known as Megan’s Law and requires the Pennsylvania State Police to maintain a public database of sex offenders. The purpose of this law is to keep the public informed about sex offenders in their community and to ultimately protect children from harm.

The law also creates tiers of sexual offenses. Tier 1 offenders must register for 15 years. Tier 2 offenders must register for 25 years. Tier 3 offenders are required to register for life. The issue recently addressed by the state supreme court arose because Tier 3 is not only a list of specific sexual offenses but also includes two or more convictions of Tier 1 or Tier 2 offenses. The law specifically states an individual commits a Tier 3 sexual offense if he or she commits “[t]wo or more convictions of offenses listed as Tier I or Tier II sexual offenses.”

The question before the court was whether multiple convictions arising from the same situation counted as two or more sexual offenses. The court ruled it did not. An offender must be convicted of Tier 1 or Tier 2 offenses separate times due to different circumstances in order to be required to register for life as a Tier 3 sex offender.

The court’s point is that the law allows for a person to reform before requiring an individual to register for life. An individual is given a second chance before such a harsh punishment.

What Does This Mean For You?

This court rule will affect a significant number of offenders who may be under the impression they have to register for life because of multiple convictions arising from one situation. If you were convicted of more than one offense arising from the same circumstances, you will only have to register for 15 or 25 years depending on the tier of the crimes.

If you have already passed the 15 or 25-year mark, you should speak to an attorney right away. You may be able to stop reporting. However, this depends on whether the decision will be applied retroactively.

For more information on how long you must register or avoiding sex offender registration, contact the Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys of Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146.

House Bill 1947 Overhauls PA Child Sex Crime Laws

Pennsylvania took historic steps last month toward reforming its child sex crime laws through House Bill 1947. Following the shocking news of systemic child sex abuse by religious leaders within the Roman Catholic Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, and recently approved by both the House and the Senate, HB 1947 would make it easier for survivors of child abuse to hold perpetrators and institutions accountable for committing child sex crimes. If HB 1947 is signed into law, Pennsylvania will join the ranks of numerous other states that have overhauled their sex crime laws in light of child sex abuse scandals.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we know that child sex abuse is a serious crime that can be punishable by hefty fines and decades of incarceration. Our experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys have helped countless individuals navigate the Pennsylvania criminal justice system and have defended them against all types of sex crime charges. If HB 1947 is signed into law, its proposed changes could have a major impact on the way Pennsylvania sex crimes are handled.

What This Means for Survivors and Perpetrators

Child sex abuse has become a hot topic in Pennsylvania after a three-month grand jury investigation found that the systemic sexual abuse of hundreds of children occurred at the hands of leaders within the Roman Catholic Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. In the wake of the case, HB 1947 seeks to overhaul many of Pennsylvania’s existing sex crime laws relating to child sexual abuse, specifically by:

  • Eliminating the statute of limitations for most child sex crimes—survivors would be able to file criminal charges against a perpetrator at any time, without being limited by time
  • Lengthening the time frame for filing civil suits—survivors of child sexual abuse would now have until age 50, rather than age 30, to file a civil suit against a perpetrator
  • Removing sovereign immunity for state crimes—under HB 1947, the state would not be immune from civil or criminal prosecution relating to matters of child abuse

Pros and Cons of House Bill 1947

Those in favor of HB 1947 see it as a historic step toward toughening and strengthening Pennsylvania’s child sex crime laws. Proponents argue that the bill makes it easier for survivors to file charges against perpetrators and institutions and gives them more time to do so.

However, those against the bill say it doesn’t go far enough. By failing to allow adults whose statute of limitation has expired to seek recourse retroactively, hundreds of survivors would lose the opportunity to file charges and, as a result, many perpetrators—including those in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese case—wouldn’t be charged.

Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC Can Help You

Being charged with a sex crime in Pennsylvania can be a shocking experience, especially in cases where you’ve been charged following a statewide investigation. If you’ve been charged with a sex crime, consider consulting with a skilled Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney today.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC we have years of experience helping individuals facing sex crime charges and can look at the evidence brought against you to help you weigh your options. For a free, initial consultation of your case, call us at (412) 281-2146 today.

Pennsylvania’s Revenge Porn Law

Pennsylvania is one of 13 states that have criminalized revenge porn so far, becoming the fourth state to lead in this continuing trend of legislation. “Revenge porn” is when a partner, or more commonly, ex-partner, publishes intimate and/or sexually explicit pictures online in an attempt to harass, shame, or distress the person featured. It also commonly referred to by law enforcement as “non-consensual porn” and is considered by many to be intimate partner harassment.

The Pennsylvania Revenge Porn Law amends Titles 18 (Crimes and Offenses) and 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to make it illegal to publicly disseminate an intimate or explicit photo intended to be private. It also provides for making it illegal to give such an image to a third party (such as a revenge porn website) for unlawful dissemination. The law claims jurisdiction if either the victim or offender is located in Pennsylvania.

Under this law, participating in revenge porn is a second-degree misdemeanor. It is punishable with a minimum prison sentence of up to a year and fines of up to $5,000. If the person depicted is a minor, the charges are bumped up to a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable with up to five years’ incarceration and up to $10,000 in fines. The law also gives the victim the ability to recover damages in civil court.

Will this law help solve the growing revenge porn problem?

Revenge porn has become a growing problem in the United States. While publishing non-consensual sexual photographs and videos is technically made illegal by other state and federal laws, the law was murkier on what happens if a person consensually poses for or even takes a picture an then it is non-consensually passed along. This law makes is it clearer that these actions are criminal in nature, at least in Pennsylvania.

Many advocates and women’s groups have lauded this law as a first step, but hope for more stringent laws in the future. Usually, these photos are posted alongside a person’s Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, street addresses, email addresses, places of business and phone numbers to encourage further harassment. Removing such information is technically outside the scope of this law. Sometimes these revenge porn sites include fully-clothed women with such information. While not technically revenge porn, often the emotional and social impact is the same.

Furthermore, this law does not include any way to go after the sites that post the content themselves. Changing federal law to target the hosts of sites with such content would most likely require a federal statute. Advocates hope that support for local laws may bring more focus on a potential federal law.

In the meantime, Pennsylvanians will have to wait and see how enforcement of the law affects acts of revenge porn. The new law goes into effect on September 7th, so no arrests will be made until after that time. It will be interesting to see what precedents are set in court after that date.

Rape By Forcible Compulsion Charge Dismissed

Our client was charged with rape by forcible compulsion. The charge is a first-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 20 years incarceration. Our client needed help to avoid a lengthy prison sentence that would forever alter his life, and turned to the Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to handle his rape by forcible compulsion case.

We reviewed the facts and evidence in our client’s case and represented him at a preliminary hearing, where we were able to get the rape by forcible compulsion charge dismissed. Our client got the result he wanted.

The outcome of an individual case depends on a variety of factors unique to that case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any similar or future case.