Child pornography is defined as any pornography that involves a minor under the age of 18. The media doesn’t matter, and magazines, photos, drawings, sounds, film, and more can all be considered child pornography. There are technically two types of child pornography – simulated child pornography and porn created with the direct involvement of the child. In these cases, child abuse and many other laws will come into play. Currently, child pornography laws are among the harshest and most serious that a person can be charged with, regardless of the specifics of the incident.
Child Pornography Laws
Child pornography is prohibited at the state and federal levels, with most charges being filed against individuals at the federal level. Despite some attempts by groups and individuals, child pornography is not protected under First Amendment rights, and the possession of or creation of this type of pornography will be punished harshly. The specific type of charge that one can face will vary depending on the situation, and laws are defined in 18 USC, section 2251, 2252, 2256, and 2260. It is important to note that a child doesn’t have to be depicted in sexual acts in order for an image to be considered child porn. Sexually suggestive photos that include naked children will be considered to be in violation of federal law. Also, despite local or state age of consent laws, no minor under the age of 18 can be depicted in pornographic materials.
Federal law deals with production, distribution, reception, and possession of child pornography. Federal law also deals with international commerce related to child porn – all cases involving the internet will be covered under federal law. States may also file charges against a suspect in addition to the federal charges.
Child Pornography Crimes and Charges
Federal law makes it very clear that any sexualized images of children will be considered child pornography. Minors under the age of eighteen cannot be depicted in pornography, and laws are usually defined by the type of pornography and the method of use associated with it. For example, charges can vary based on:
- The creation of child pornography, including the filming or photographing of children in sexual situations.
- The possession of child pornography, whether on a computer hard drive, DVD, or hard copy photos
- The distribution of child pornography through any means.
In short, any activity related to child pornography will likely fall under federal law and face very serious charges. Offenders can be charged and prosecuted under federal law as well as state laws.
Child Pornography Punishment
Child pornography is among the most notorious crimes in the world, and is thus punished with very harsh penalties. First time offenders who are convicted of producing child porn can face fines and 15 to 30 years in prison, while those who are convicted of transporting child pornography could face between 5 and 20 years in prison as well as fines. Upon release, convicted child pornographers will have to register as sex offenders and abide by numerous rules set forth for them including staying a certain distance from a school or day care center, informing neighbors of their status, and more.
Other factors can influence the overall sentencing including things like:
- Criminal history
- Whether or not images are violent or sadistic in nature
- Whether or not the minor was sexually abused
In certain cases, offenders can be sentenced to life in prison.
Child Pornography Sentencing Guidelines
Sentencing for child pornography is always taken very seriously, and after a conviction there will be numerous things taken into account to determine what sentence will be handed down. Things such as criminal history, the nature of the photos, the amount of photos made available, and much more will all be factors in sentencing. However, light sentences are very rare due to the nature of this crime.
Child Pornography Statue of Limitations
There is no current statute of limitations for child pornography at the federal level. This means that offenders can be charged at any time after their offense. State statute of limitations may exist, however, but since nearly all child pornography cases will be federal crimes there is likely to be no statute of limitations in place.
Child Pornography Cases
- Dr. William Kenneth Stewart – Dr. Stewart was a respected oceanographer, but was discovered to have hard drives holding a total of 22,000 child pornography images.
- Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Case – The CBLDF defended a 38 year old comic collector from child porn charges stemming from ‘crude images in a comic book’. A plea deal led to a conviction for obscenity, but the case generated a discussion as to the depiction of children in other forms of media
Child Porn Laws by State
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming