Possession of Child Pornography

by | Jan 20, 2020 | Blog Posts, Federal Criminal Defense | 0 comments

There are many different sex crimes in every jurisdiction in the United States both on the state level and the federal level.  Sex crimes in general carry a heavy stigma, as well as have additional consequences other than jail or prison time, such as sex offender registry and other collateral consequences.

Sex crimes involving the abuse and exploitation of children are also numerous. Examples include indecent liberties, statutory rape, and possession of child pornography.  In this blog, we will discuss possession of child pornography.  Like all our blogs, this is intended for general informational purposes only and not as a substitute for the advice and counsel of a criminal defense attorney.

Further, while there are various state laws regarding child pornography, this blog will specifically address the federal child pornography crime.

Child Pornography federal law

Federal criminal law regarding child pornography is found under 18 U.S.C. 2252 and addresses certain activities related to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors. This covers a wide range of material and a large variety of sexually explicit activities.

The statute covers the possession, distribution, or the receiving of visual depictions of minors involved in sexual activity or any depicts of sexually explicit conduct involving minors. What makes this crime federal is when it is transported, transmitted, or received by means of interstate commerce or foreign commerce.  This includes but is not limited to:

  • Transmission or receipt through e-mail
  • Transmission or receipt through mail
  • Transmission or receipt through internet communication

Defenses to Child pornography charges

The defendant asserting that he was not aware that the pornographic materials depicted children is not a defense.  Ignorance of the actual age of the “models” depicted (the,” I didn’t know she was a child, I just thought she looked young” defense) is not a factor in prosecution of these cases.

The statute does provide for an affirmative defense, however, if the materials were received “accidentally” and certain factors are present. For this defense to apply the defendant:

  • The defendant must have possessed less than three items containing child pornography, and
  • The defendant reported the accident recent to law enforcement

There are also additional factors such as not attempting to retain in and other compliance factors involving law enforcement.

Punishment for federal child pornography charges

Punishment for this charge follows the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.  The guidelines can be very strict on this crime and the range of sentencing will be influenced heavily on the type and the amount of pornographic material in question. Additionally, sex offender registry will apply, and there will be some period of post-supervision release that is ordered.

If you have been charged with a federal crime in North Carolina, or charged with a federal crime in South Carolina, contact us.


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