Being accused of child pornography can destroy the career, family, reputation, and life of the person accused. The accusation alone, even if later proven to be unfounded can create tension, hostility, and ostracization for the person in their community. Being accused of child pornography is an extremely serious matter.
What Is Child Pornography?
The State of California defines child pornography as an image, video, data, computer file, etc. that depicts a person under the age of 18 in any sexual act. The act can even be simulated and involves such acts as oral copulation, masturbation or any display of the genital region for sexual gratification.
Persons who are aged 18 are not considered minors nor are married persons or those who have been legally emancipated. An example of this would be a married couple who are 18 and 17 years old and creating a home video of themselves engaged in sexual intercourse for their own use and not intended to be shared or distributed.
California’s child pornography laws are found in Penal Code 311. The Code contains statutes that define how California finds child pornography illegal:
- Knowingly sending, transporting, producing, possessing or duplicating child pornography with intent to distribute
- Knowingly developing, duplicating, printing or exchanging any child pornography
- Knowingly hiring, employing, using, persuading or coercing a minor to participate in the production of pornography
- Knowingly advertising obscene child pornography for sale or distribution
- Knowingly possessing or controlling any child pornography produced using a person under 18
California law does not criminalize the “viewing” of child pornography but does prohibit anyone from any of the above including advertising, sharing, emailing or downloading it. Child pornography charges can be both a misdemeanor or a felony. Felonies are usually the result of aggressive prosecution due to the fact that:
- The material is grossly obscene
- The material lacks literary, artistic, social or scientific value
- The accused attempted to display it to a person under the age of 18
- The accused is a repeat offender
- The accused has been previously convicted of being a sex offender
What Are The Penalties For Child Pornography Charges?
Most child pornography charges are considered felonies which carry fines up to $100,000 and up to 8 years in a state prison. Depending on the nature of your charge, all the facts and elements, prior criminal history and other factors, a child pornography charge can also be a misdemeanor. If you have a previous conviction for a child pornography offense or you are a registered sex offender the penalty can be quite severe.
Even if you are convicted of a misdemeanor in a child pornography case, you will have to register as a sex offender in the California three-tier Sex Offender Registry. This can, in some cases, be the most devastating aspect of a conviction for some.
Under California Penal Code 290.006, a judge has the authority to order a person to register as a sex offender for any crime committed with an intent to sexually arouse or sexually satisfy themselves. Although it is not common for courts to impose this penalty on those not directly involved in violating child pornography or sex crime laws, there are some instances where this statute does apply. The court can order the convicted party to register as a sex offender anywhere from 5 years to a lifetime.
Recently, the issue of whether Anime or Manga (Japanese illustrations, art, and videos of cartoon characters) is considered child pornography when it depicts childlike cartoon figures engaged in sexual acts with adults, has been answered by the State of California who has decided that neither Anime nor Manga is considered child pornography. Child pornography must depict real, living persons and does not include art, illustrations or drawings.
A person convicted of possessing child pornography is subject to fines up to $2,500 and 1 year in county jail or both. A previous conviction for possession can in a prison term of up to 6 years. A person convicted of advertising, distributing or transporting child pornography for commercial gain, increases their penalty by up to $100,000 in fines and a prison term of up to 6 years.
Can A Lawyer defend Me Against Child Pornography Charges?
If you have been charged with a child pornography offense in Los Angeles, an experienced lawyer has many ways to defend you in your case.
They can defend you by using some of these strategies:
- You had a legitimate purpose to possess child pornography. If your purpose of possession was for medical, scientific or educational purpose or it was involved in redeeming research it is possible to defend the charges.
- You may not have been aware a person was a minor under the age of 18 due to the person’s physical development. It must be proven that you had the knowledge that a person was under the age of 18.
- You may have innocently came into possession of material that is considered child pornography and you immediately destroyed it even if you did not immediately report it to authorities.
- You were unaware you were in possession of child pornography. There are cases where hackers or trojan horses can automatically download pornographic material onto a person’s computer without their knowledge.
If you’ve been charged with any crime under California’s child pornography laws, it is imperative to contact an attorney immediately.