Written by attorney Robert Michael Helfend

Child Pornography in California

Child pornography is one of the worst types of sex crime charges that may require mandatory sex offender registration if convicted. Unfortunately, innocent people can be charged with this crime.

Sex crimes typically involve non-consensual sexual contact; however, there is an entirely different category that involves minors. In the United States, there are a myriad of sex crime offenses that relate to boys and girls under the age of 18, regardless of consent. In the state of California, it is illegal to possess or distribute child pornography by any means. This means that a person can’t lawfully forward e-mails containing child pornography, and they can’t send a text message depicting a nude child or minors engaging in sexual activity. A person can’t give another person a photograph with minors engaging in sexual activity or posing in a sexual way, and they can’t download this type of pornography onto a CD-Rom. In essence, it is unlawful to possess or distribute child pornography in any fashion whatsoever.

This type of pornography is not limited to young boys and girls; it can involve teenagers as well, even teenagers who willfully engaged in front of the camera. In fact, any person who, with knowledge of the fact that the minor is under the age of 18 years, knowingly promotes, employs, uses, persuades, induces or coerces a minor under the age of 18 to participate in photography, or filming of illegal sexual activity is guilty of a felony offense and faces imprisonment in a state prison for three to eight years.

Under §311 of the California Penal Code, California law prohibits child pornography or sexual exploitation of a child. While these offenses can be penalized as a misdemeanor or a felony offense, a conviction often requires mandatory sex offender registration. Mandatory registration for a case of pornography of a child is one of the “worst of the worst" sex crimes to be convicted of. Most people who have this type of conviction are literally socially ostracized. It will typically destroy an individual’s personal and professional reputation permanently. Furthermore, mandatory sex offender registration will haunt the individual wherever they go, since sex offender registration is a nationwide registry.

In the state of California, possession or distribution of child pornography is an extremely serious crime. Under §311, a conviction can lead to a six year prison sentence and up to $100,000 in fines. Charges can be prosecuted in the state or federal courts depending on the circumstances of the case. Child sex crimes and internet crimes have received national attention in the past several years, with law enforcement creating what are called cyber crime units which investigate, detect and track down individuals who are guilty of committing internet crimes including producing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

Not everyone can control what happens on their home computer, or who uses their computer and internet, or how the internet downloads obscene material. Defenses to a child pornography charge may include: entrapment, mistakes and undisputable innocence. Many people would never intentionally look at or distribute child pornography; therefore, this is one charge worth fighting. Because these types of charges are extremely serious, it will be absolutely necessary to retain the services of a highly experienced criminal defense attorney if you want to have the best chances of overcoming the charges against you.

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