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If you are charged and convicted of a federal crime involving federal child pornography, the sentence is likely to be quite severe. Most convictions will carry a mandatory minimum sentence, meaning that you are looking at certain jail time. There will be conditions imposed upon your release as well. In short, a conviction of this crime will truly stick with you for a lifetime. It is first important to understand the exact nature of child pornography before moving into the federal sentencing guidelines that are in place for such convictions.
What Constitutes Child Pornography?
It is important to know that any image considered to be child pornography is not protected under the provisions of the First Amendment of the Constitution. In fact, such images are considered to be illegal contraband by way of federal law. The specific statute that deals with just how to define child pornography is Section 2256 of Title 18. It stipulates that such images will visually depict some type of sexual contact that involves a minor. Remember that minors are classified as being under 18 years of age. Sentencing guidelines will take into account the age of the victim.
Remember that child pornography is defined as a visual depiction. These can include any of the following: photographs, computer generated or digital images, videos, and any other type of image in which an identifiable minor can be seen. Even film or video that has not been developed can constitute child pornography.
Legal Definition and How it Relates to Sentencing
The legal definition of child pornography does not necessitate that the child is actively engaged in a sexual act. A child who has his or her clothes off can be construed as being pornographic in nature if it can be demonstrated that the minor is posing in a way that sexually provocative. It is also important to remember that the age of sexual consent is not relevant in cases of child pornography. We are talking about images here, and any of those depicting sexual activity with an individual younger than 18 is considered to be illegal.
Federal statutes have made it illegal to produce, distribute, receive, or be in a possession of an image that is considered to be child pornography. Federal guidelines come into play when the images cross state borders. Section 2251 of U.S. Criminal code makes it clear that persuading a child or coercing them to participate in any type of explicit behavior that will be filmed or photographed is strictly illegal.
The federal government becomes involved in a case of child pornography when the crime is believed to have taken place across state borders, or when interstate or foreign commerce is involved. Sending child pornography across state borders or to another country via the mail or electronic means will bring about federal involvement. The federal government will almost always get involved whenever child pornography is believed to have been executed over the Internet. Even if the images did not actually travel across state borders or from a foreign country, federal statutes may still be applied if the material was downloaded from a computer or device that was originally located in another jurisdiction.
Federal law also makes it illegal for any parent or legal guardian to possess any images of a child under the age of 18 that they intend to sell for the purposes of producing some type of child pornography. This is prohibited under Section 2251 of Title 18. In addition, no individual out of the United States can knowingly send child pornography to the United States via any means. In this case, the federal government will go after the foreign national involved and work with that nation to bring charges.
How This Knowledge Impacts Sentencing
As you can imagine, a conviction of any federal charge related to child pornography will carry serious consequences. There are statutes in place that dictate the sentences that will be handed down. To begin, a first time offender who is convicted of producing any type of child pornography will face a minimum of 15 years in prison and could receive up to 30 years. There is also the likely imposition of a financial penalty upon the offender as well. These guidelines are found in section 2251 of Section 18. If a person is convicted of transporting images depicting child pornography across state borders or internationally, the minimum sentence is 5 years in prison, with a maximum of 20 years being possible. This is the provision found in section 2251 of Title 18. Penalties can be increased if the child is under the age of 12, or the images are considered to be particularly heinous in nature.