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Child Pornography

The possession, production, distribution or sale of child pornography is a crime under federal and state laws in Texas. Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors regard them as serious criminal offenses to which they dedicate resources to apprehend and convict offenders. It is common for prosecutors to seek maximum prison sentences for those convicted of child pornography crimes.

Child Pornography

State and federal laws describe child pornography as the visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor. It makes no difference under the law whether the depiction is a photograph, film, video or computer-generated image. Even a visual depiction created through electronic, mechanical, digital or other means, such as a drawing, cartoon, sculpture or painting is illegal if it violates the terms of the law.

The criminalization of the possession, production, sale or distribution of child pornography includes viewing it on the internet or downloading it to a computer for viewing. If the visual image depicted is that of a child under 18 years of age engaged in or appearing to engage in sexually explicit conduct, the creator, possessor, distributor and producer of the material is subject to federal and state criminal charges.

Texas Penal Code section 43.25 defines sexual conduct as sexual contact and actual or simulated sexual intercourse along with other forms of sexual conduct including lewd exhibition of the genitals. Courts the state have interpreted “lewd exhibition” to include the following in the context of a child pornography case:

Significant Penalties and Consequences of a Conviction

Child pornography penalties range from two to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for a felony of the second degree for the use of a child in a sexual performance to a fine and five to 99 years in prison for conviction of a felony of the first degree if the child is under 14 years of age. Possession of child pornography is a felony of the third degree with a sentence of two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The problems associated with a conviction of child pornography charges does not end with the completion of a prison sentence. Under Texas law, a convicted person must register as a sex offender with the information available to the public through the state’s sex offender registry.

Defenses in Child Pornography Cases

Common defenses in child pornography cases include:

Knowledge and intent are issues that frequently arise in cases where the pornographic materials are found on a computer to which multiple people have access. Defense attorneys sometimes can challenge claims that the material belonged to one user over another.

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