Federal and state laws make it a crime to produce, distribute, or even just possess pornographic materials that portray a minor (someone under the age of 18). Increasingly, child pornography laws are being relied on to punish individuals who use the internet to share or obtain pornographic images and videos involving children.
Federal laws addressing child pornography are:
A violation of federal child pornography laws is a serious crime and the penalties are harsh. First-time offenders found guilty of producing child pornography are sentenced to between 15 and 30 years in prison. Individuals caught with child pornography on their personal computers receive prison time. Offenders may be prosecuted under federal or state law (or both).
State vs. Federal Laws
A federal child pornography crime such as manufacturing, distribution, or possession typically requires the illegal activity to cross state lines, such as on the internet or through the mail. While federal authorities often take the lead, state prosecutors can also pursue child pornography charges.
Mandatory Sex Registration
If you've been convicted of a child pornography-related crime, either federal or state, your sentence will likely include mandatory sex offender registration. This means that your photo, address, and other information will appear in a database for monitoring and tracking sex offenders.
It is both a federal and state crime to knowingly fail to register or update a sex offender listing as required by law. Members of the public can gain access to this information via the National Sex Offender Public Website, which includes the registry of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Child Pornography and the First Amendment
Some people have argued, unsuccessfully, that child pornography should be protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, courts have consistently found that images of child pornography are not protected as free speech or free expression.
What Should I Do if I Discover a Suspected Child Pornography Website?
If you come across a website that you believe is depicting child pornography, the first step is to contact your local law enforcement agency. While many of these crimes involve federal law, local authorities will know where to route the investigation. You can also contact:
Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney About Your Criminal Charges
Whether prosecuted under federal or state law, child pornography crimes often carry heavy prison sentences. If you have been accused of child pornography, don't waste any time before retaining an experienced attorney to protect your legal rights, help you establish a defense, and preserve evidence that may benefit your case. Contact a criminal defense lawyer near you today.