What is the law on possessing child pornography?

Sadly, even today, too many children in Massachusetts and around the world are victims of sexual exploitation.

Child pornography is one way children are exploited. According to the US Department of Justice, child pornography is any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years old). Last year alone a total of 3,771 people were arrested in the US on charges of child exploitation.

People who are victims of crimes are not responsible for what happens to them, but sometimes people are falsely accused of crimes. There are certain conditions that need to be met for a person to face criminal penalties.

What is the law on child pornography?

Chapter 272, Section 99C of the Massachusetts General Laws says that people who knowingly purchased or possessed an image of a person under 18 years old engaged in sexual conduct or other lewd (offensive) behavior can be punished.

The behavior the law is talking about includes:

  • Masturbation
  • Fondling
  • Sexual abuse
  • Other exposure of sex organs

What are the punishments for child pornography?

A person convicted of possession of child pornography can face up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for a first offense. They will also be required to register with the Sex Offender Registry Board, which could have a devastating effect on their life.

How do you defend against a child pornography accusation?

People accused of possessing child pornography may have defenses available to them:

  1. No knowledge of purchase or possession. To be punished a person must knowingly have obtained the child pornography. Knowing means intentionally, and not accidentally or negligently. For example, a person could accidentally obtain a photograph or click on a link on the Internet. To possess something, a person must have direct physical control or custody at the time.

  2. No knowledge that child was under 18. Another requirement for conviction is that the person accused knows or reasonably should have known that the child depicted was under 18. Often, criminal defense attorneys can hire experts to testify to the age of the person depicted if it is not otherwise known.

  3. No knowledge of nature or content of the image. If the defendant does not comprehend the nature or content of the images they are not guilty. In other words, a person who legitimately does not comprehend the wrongfulness of the child pornography is not guilty.

False accusations of possessing child pornography are not uncommon in today’s technological world. For example, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has recently faced hackers who have used his IP address to download child pornography.

Is revenge porn illegal?

The law on who is guilty for possessing child pornography is changing. Currently, the Massachusetts government is considering new legislation that would make it a felony to share a sexually explicit image without the consent of the person depicted. This practice is sometimes called revenge porn.

Under this new legislation, a person may be eligible to complete an educational diversion program as a substitute to prosecution.

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT A POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGE, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.

CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.

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