Child Pornography and Your Rights
Child pornography is in the United States is a very serious crime. Child pornography, is any form of media containing explicit images or videos explicitly depicting or sexualizing minors. In the US it is a crime to distribute, produce, sell or possess pornographic materials depicting or involving anyone younger than 18 years of age.
There federal laws in the United States which discuss child pornography include: 18 U.S.C. § 2251 which describes the sexual exploitation of children, 18 U.S.C. § 2260– discussing the production of sexually explicit depictions of a minor for importation into the United States, 18 U.S.C. § 2251A– discussing the selling or buying of minors, 18 U.S.C. § 2252A– which discusses certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography and 18 U.S.C. § 2252 discusses certain activities relating to the materials used involving the sexual exploitation of minors. Engaging in the production, sale, or possession of child pornography is a very serious criminal offense in the United States. First-time offenders found guilty of any child pornography charges can be sentenced to a minimal sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in federal prison. Defendants of child pornography can be indicted under federal law, state law, or both law forms.
There are significant punishments on both the state and the federal levels for possessing or having access to any form of child pornography. Though, penalties differ between state and federal offenses, and the details of the defendant’s specific indictment define which law they will be prosecuted under. A child pornography crime where the defendant distributed, developed, or possessed child pornography can be federal or legal. Every case is distinguished between a federal and state case based off of if the crime crossed state lines in any way. To be classified as a federal charge, the child pornography was spread across state lines either by email, social media, text, or by mail. All child pornography shared over the internet or through the mail by the defendant, will likely result in a federal case even if the defendant never crossed state line in person. Most pornography in recent years has transitioned to an online platform, most cases are tried as federal crimes. However, even if the defendant is tried federally, they may also be tried on a state level for additional charges relating to child pornography.
No matter if someone was convicted of a child pornography-related crime federally or on the state level, their sentence will almost always mandate registration as a sex offender. If the convicted person is required to file a sex offender registration, he or she will have to input all of their information into the national public information database. The database requires all sex offenders to register their address, photo, and other information will appear on the database for monitoring, tracking, and checking information regarding sex offenders across the country. To knowingly fail to register or update a sex offender listing as required by law is both a federal and state delinquency and can result in fines or even jail time. Anyone can access sex offender information by going on the National Sex Offender Public Website, which includes the registry of sex offenders in all 50 states.
Many people throughout the years have argued that child pornography should be protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. This argument may seem logical, but it is refuted by all judges and laws across the country. These law bodies argue that all forms of child pornography cannot be protected as free expression or free speech, because of the explicit content containing children who cannot legally consent to anything without representation. These laws are not protected under the first amendment because children have been historically used and exploited for capital gain by older individuals and even companies. Minors are not capable of making the decision to sell photos of themselves that could potentially inhibit their futures.
Social media and applications promoting “selfies” are also create a new and much common for those most at risk of being prosecuted with a child pornography case. Because so many young people are on social media, frequently posting photos of themselves and others, the proposition of sending naked photos is much more likely. Sharing any form of media on social platforms, including videos or pictures taken by the subject, called “selfies,” where the person is naked or sexualizing themselves, are also forms of child pornography. The defendant of these cases often argues that the pictures they were taking were completely their choice, but they can still be charged of distributing child pornography even if no adults saw the videos or pictures. When child pornography is directed, produced, or distributed by an adult it is very clearly a criminal matter, however when child pornography is distributed and created by a minor themselves it can be confusing and lands in a grey area of the law. Certain states have laws pertaining to these specific cases so it is important to contact a criminal defense lawyer no matter the case.
Protecting children from exploitation and abuse is the main intention behind the strict child pornography laws. However, many regulations don’t make a distinction between a minor electing to send photos under no pressure or for any gain. Every time a minor takes a picture or video of themselves naked or doing something sexual, they are partaking in child pornography. If a minor sends an explicit video or photo of his or herself to his or her significant other who is also a minor, could put both individuals in jeopardy of a possible child pornography prosecution. However, as technology continues to evolve, so do the laws.
If a website containing child pornography is found or believed to contain some form of child pornography, it is imperative to contact local law enforcement law enforcement like the city police. Even if the child pornography is believed to possibly violate federal regulations, it is important to contact local authorities first so that the information can be sorted and sent to the correct departments to receive federal attention if determined necessary.