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Child Pornography 101: an overview of Child Pornography law

Under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), child pornography is defined as any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where

- the production of the visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or

- the visual depiction is a digital image, computer image, or computer-generated image that is, or is indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or

  • the visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

Federal law (18 U.S.C. §1466A) also criminalizes knowingly producing, distributing, receiving, or possessing with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture or painting, that

  • depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or
  • depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Sexually explicit conduct is defined under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256) as actual or simulated sexual intercourse (including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex), bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.

Who Is a Minor according to the law?

For purposes of enforcing the federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), “minor" is defined as a person under the age of 18.

Is possession Child Pornography a Crime?

Yes, it is a federal crime to knowingly possess, manufacture, distribute, or access with intent to view child pornography (18 U.S.C. §2252). In addition, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography. As a result, a person who violates these laws may face federal and/or state charges.

Most child pornography charges being brought against people today relate to the use of the Internet and mobile phones. They usually involve some form of file sharing or picture download. With the explosion of explicit images online, it's quite possible to run afoul of child pornography laws without even trying.

Of course, possession of pornographic images of people under the age of 18 is not the only type of criminal charge you could face:

  • Manufacturers of child porn face the stiffest criminal penalties. This is often a federal sex crime with a mandatory minimum sentence.
  • Distribution of child pornography, by hosting images on a Web site or sending them by email, by phone, or by mail. Distributors of child porn are relentlessly investigated by the police and FBI. U.S. "distributors" or child porn website hosts of foreign-made child porn will find themselves facing serious charges.

The most common child porn charge is possession, usually of downloaded images on a computer.

Fighting Your Child Pornography Charges

Technology has drastically changed the way police collect evidence in child porn cases. Law enforcement agencies, even at the local level, have sophisticated technology they use to see who is viewing and distributing child pornography. Even if you try to delete the child pornography, the police or feds have a record showing you had it.

If you have been arrested for distribution of child pornography, it is important to hire an attorney as soon as possible. We will fight to reduce your charges and maintain your reputation.

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