The possession, distribution and production of child pornography is aggressively prosecuted in Massachusetts. Child pornography laws are increasingly being used to punish use of Internet and computer technology to obtain, distribute and share pornographic material that involves minors who are under the age of 18.
Similar to federal laws, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 272 Section 29C also makes purchasing, sharing or possessing child pornography a serious criminal offense.
Massachusetts Laws and Penalties
According to state law, the state or federal prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you of this crime:
- You purchased or possessed pornographic material that featured a person under the age of 18. Pornographic material means any type of visual material of practically any medium that shows or simulates sexual intercourse with an animal or person; sexual contact; masturbation; lewd touching; excretion or urination in a sexual manner; sexually sadistic, masochistic or sadomasochistic acts; lewd display of buttocks, genitals, or pubic area or female breasts.
- You possessed or purchased this pornographic material knowingly
- You had knowledge of the nature or content of the material
- You knew or should have known that the person in the material was under 18
State law provides that you can be charged and convicted of child pornography possession even if you had no knowledge the material was on your computer. The presence of any illegal pornographic material on a computer, even if it was placed there without your knowledge, can implicate you in the crime. Forensic computer experts can usually recover most of the data that is erased on a PC through normal deletion.
The state statute says that you can receive up to five years in state prison or up to 2.5 years in a Massachusetts house of correction. The fine can be from $1000 to $10,000. For a second offense, punishment can be at least five years in prison and a fine of $5000. For a third offense, the sentence is at least 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Plea bargaining is also seriously limited on these serious state charges.
A conviction for child pornography in Massachusetts can have other serious effects on your life. You also will be required to register with the Sex Offender Registry Board and may have to have treatment for your condition. If the Registry Board determines you are still a high risk to the community, you personal information and name can be made public.
Massachusetts Child Pornography Defenses
These are very serious charges with possibly devastating consequences, but some effective defenses exist for child pornography charges. These include:
- You were not in possession: If the prohibited material does not belong to you, this can be an effective defense. The defense may work if the content that was found is on a PC that is shared, such as a computer used at work or a laptop. It is possible another person downloaded the content and then you were accused of doing it. The defense also can work if a former spouse or angry employee attempts to frame you by putting illegal content on your computer. A computer forensic expert can be hired by the defense and show exactly how the illegal content was put on the computer.
- It is not child pornography: For the content to be child pornography, it must meet the exact definition mentioned earlier in this article. If the content does not feature child, then it is not illegal. There also is specific content that is exempted according to the Motion Picture Association of America, such as from certain films or drawings. Content that serves a scientific or educational purpose also is not child pornography.
- It was unintentional: Possession of the illegal material may have not been intentional. This defense could be effective if you receive child pornograhpy through email or accidentally click something on a website and material is downloaded to your computer. Just by going to a website by accident by typing something by mistake can result in an immediate content download. It also is possible to view pornography involving someone almost 18 but be unaware of it.
- Search was illegal: It is possible for legal and procedural errors to have been done that were in violation of your constitutional rights. You can argue that various incriminating evidence was obtained illegally according to the 4th Amendment.
- It was psychological addiction: It is possible to minimize a sentence if you can prove that you suffer from a psychological addiction to illegal material. This will not result in dismissal of charges.
Massachusetts Statute of Limitations
No statute of limitations exists at the federal level for child pornography charges.
Massachusetts Child Pornography Cases
- Ex-City Official in MA Faces Child Porn and Rape Charges — A former member of the Newburyport MA City Council and school committee has been charged with child rape and child pornography. Bert Reed is being held without bail pending a May 4 hearing to determine if he presents a danger to society. He was arrested by the police when he met with the alleged 16 year old male victim. The man met the boy on the Internet in 2017.
- Massachusetts Man Indicted for Child Porn — A man from Massachusetts was indicted on state charges last week after he allegedly exchanged pictures of a sexual nature and videos online with a 15 year old girl. Marc Reposa, 50, has been indicted for child pornography possession, posing a child in an act of a sexual nature and sending obscene matter to a child.
- Former Palmer MA Police Chief Denies Child Porn Charges — William McCarthy, who retired from the Palmer MA Police Department in 2002, has denied being in possession of a large quantity of child pornography. He was earlier convicted of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 16 and was given a sentence of 18 months probation with several conditions. He said at the time of the conviction he was too drunk to remember the assault.