In the state of Pennsylvania, it is well known that juries are very tough on those accused of sex crimes, even if the evidence is not completely sound. The stigma of a sex crime is one that will follow you forever, especially since sexual offenders must register on the sex offender database, which can greatly alter the course of your life.

If you have been charged with a sex crime on the basis of false accusations and weak evidence, you need a criminal defense lawyer who has a deep understanding of law enforcement and the judicial system.

Understanding Pennsylvania’s Sexual Offenses Code

In Pennsylvania, there are various types of sexual offenses that may be committed. To understand the meaning and penalties associated with the crimes, we will cover some of the most common sex crimes committed.


Under the Pennsylvania Statute, Title 18  § 3121, rape is a felony of the first degree when a person engages in sexual intercourse with a complainant:

  • By force.
  • By threat of force that would prevent resistance.
  • Who is unconscious or is unaware that sexual intercourse is occurring.
  • Who suffers from a mental disability which renders the complainant incapable of consent.
  • Where the person has substantially impaired the complainant’s power to control his or her conduct by the administration of drugs, intoxicants or other means for the purpose of preventing resistance.

The penalty for rape in Pennsylvania is up to 40 years in prison or life in prison if the crime was the rape of a child with serious bodily injury.

If you have been accused of rape, know there are some defenses such as:

  • Consent
  • No force used
  • Insanity
  • Intoxication 

Indecent Exposure

In Pennsylvania, the crime of indecent exposure occurs if a person exposes his or her genitals in any public place or in any place where other people are present and that the exposure is likely to offend or alarm others.

While this typically applies to public places, indecent exposure can also occur if the individual is exposing themselves in their own homes to others.

The penalty of indecent exposure depends on the age of the victim. If the person present was less than 16 years old, the charge will be a first-degree misdemeanor. This can result in a prison sentence of up to five years and potentially fines.

However, typically, if no child under age 16 is present, the crime is a second-degree misdemeanor, with the potential of up to two years in prison and fines.

Possible defenses to indecent exposure include:

  • Lack of intent 
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Insanity
  • Age
  • Intoxication
  • No exposure actually occurred

Open Lewdness

Sometimes an act of indecent exposure can be upgraded to the crime of open lewdness, such as if a couple has sexual intercourse in public. Such lewd acts occur when an individual knows someone observing is likely to be affronted or alarmed.

Open lewdness is a third-degree misdemeanor punishable with up to one year in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.


Defenses to open lewdness are the same as those of indecent exposure.

Sexual Assault

For cases that do not fall under rape, you may be charged with sexual assault. In Pennsylvania, sexual assault occurs when one individual engages in sexual intercourse or was involved in deviate sexual intercourse with a person against their will or without their consent. 

Under Pennsylvania criminal statutes, a sexual assault offense is a second-degree felony, punishable with up to ten years in prison, and a fine of up to $25,000.

Defenses to sexual assault include:

  • Consent
  • Mistaken Identity
  • Age
  • Involuntary Intoxication


Under Pennsylvania statues Title 18, § 5902, prostitution, defined as a sexual activity performed as a business, is illegal. Under the law, not only can the individual profiting from the sexual acts be charged, but a prosecutor can charge an individual for patronizing prostitutes if found entering a house of prostitution or paying someone to perform sexual acts.

The law also prohibits the promotion of prostitution.

Because there are many layers to prostitution, there are levels to the penalties of the crimes. These penalties can range from a misdemeanor of the third-degree to a felony of the third-degree.

Defenses to prostitution include:

  • The sexual activity was not performed for a business purpose.
  • Entrapment was arranged by police or law enforcement officials.

Child Pornography

Child pornography charges often fall under sexual abuse law. Under the law, the photographing, filming, and videotaping of a sexual act involving a child under the age of 18 is illegal. Even if the depiction is simulated, the act is still prohibited.

To be found guilty, a prosecutor need only prove that the defendant knowingly engaged in photographing, filming, or videotaping of the sexual act, however, does not need to prove knowledge of the child’s age.

Under the law, the dissemination and viewing of child pornography are also illegal. This includes the sharing, selling, or exhibition of such materials.

Penalties for child pornography vary on the crime committed.

  • Photographing, filming, or videotaping child pornography is a second-degree felony, resulting in a conviction of up to 10 years in prison.
  • Distribution, viewing, possessing, or control of child pornography may result in a third-degree felony, which may result in imprisonment for up to five years–if this is the offender’s first offense. If this is not the first time the crime has occurred, it is upgraded to a second-degree felony and punishable by a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Possible defenses to child pornography charges are:

  • Material possessed was brought into Pennsylvania for an educational, government, judicial, or scientific purpose.
  • Accidental or involuntary viewing of prohibited pornography materials

Internet Sex Crimes

In Pennsylvania, internet sex crime charges may consist of accusations of child pornography, distribution of pornography using a computer, displaying pornography on the computer or internet, or solicitation of a minor.

The solicitation of a minor is the most serious of internet sex crimes, with a penalty of up to ten years in prison and a fine of $10,000. As a federal crime, you can even be punished with a life sentence.

In many cases, the police will want to view files on your computer. However, without the proper warrant or lack of protocol being followed, this can damage their case, which is a potential defense for you.

Sex crimes can be very complicated and severely alter your life with mandatory registration on the sex offender registry. 

If you have been accused of a sex crime in Pennsylvania, do not wait to seek representation. 


Work with a firm that is committed to protecting you and your future. Contact a Scranton criminal defense attorney at Kalinoski Law Offices  by calling (570) 207-4000 or use our contact form today to schedule an appointment and discuss your case during a free consultation. Your future depends on it.

We fight for the rights of our clients in a wide spectrum of practice areas, ranging from criminal defense to family law to civil rights and personal injury.

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