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Federal Prosecution of Child Pornography – Child Pornography Laws

Are you being charged with breaking federal child pornography laws?  A federal child pornography conviction could result in many years in prison and placement on the sex offender registry for the remainder of your life. This is a serious offense, therefore it is imperative that you contact an experienced lawyer who has a successful track record in handling these types of federal cases.

It is also extremely important for you to understand the laws of which you are being charged against. Read on to learn more about federal child pornography laws so that you can be more prepared in fighting your case. Keep in mind that you should not attempt to defend yourself without the proper representation of an established attorney.

Elements of Child Pornography Laws

Federal statute 18 USC 22521 governs the federal prosecution of child pornography. To be convicted under child pornography law §2252A, a person must:

  • Possess
  • Manufacture or
  • Distribute child pornography.

Mere viewing of child pornography is not breaking any child pornography laws. For example, an individual who admitted to viewing child pornography online cannot be guilty of possession under federal law, if he does not store the images to his hard drive and he is unaware that the images are being stored on his hard drive.

Child Pornography is similar under California law.  California penal code 311.112 governs the state prosecution of child pornography. To be convicted under 311.11 a person must:

1) Knowingly possess or control child pornography in any form and

2) Know that the images depict a person under the age of 18 personally engaged in or simulating sexual conduct.

18 USC 2252 | Child Pornography Laws
Mere viewing of child pornography is not a crime

Possession, Viewing and the Internet Browser Cache

It is important to recognize that according to child pornography laws,  viewing child porn does not constitute possession. A viable defense to a charge of possession of child pornography is to argue that merely viewing images online does not equate possession because the images remained in cyberspace and not under the tangible control of the viewer.  This defense cannot be raised successfully if the images have been downloaded to the computer’s hard drive.

The Internet Browser Cache

Every computer has an internet browser cache which automatically saves a copy (commonly called ‘cookies’) of every web page the user visits. This process is designed to improve browsing speed by allowing the computer to retrieve the web site from the browser cache when the web site is revisited. This automatic process in which the computer downloads and stores web pages can be sufficient to prove possession.

However, a defense can be raised on the grounds that the accused is not a sophisticated computer owner, and is unaware of the function and existence of the internet browser cache.  A computer user who is unaware of the existence of the internet browser cache, and did not understand that the images viewed were saved automatically to the computer, may be able to successfully use this as a defense.  In short, a person who does not know the images exist on his computer can not exercise dominion and control over the images and thus cannot knowingly possess the images.

‘Virtual’ Child Pornography

Another defense involves situations in which the images in question do not actually depict a person under the age of 18.  For example, an image of an adult woman engaging in sexual conduct with a child’s face pasted over the adult’s face is not child pornography.  Here the image depicts an adult, not a minor, and thus is not child pornography.

Punishment for Child Pornography

For certain offenses the federal sentencing guidelines are severe, and generally require a minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum sentence of 20 years.  However, when the defendant has a prior conviction of a sex offense, the minimum sentence is 15 years and the maximum sentence is 40 years.

Call Our Federal Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

Federal laws are very complex, and it will be difficult to understand the complex legal process without the help of an experienced federal attorney. With an experience child pornography defense attorney on your side, an aggressive defense will be presented. Your freedom is at stake, so you need an experienced lawyer who has been successful in handling federal child pornography crimes.

At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys know how to handle serious federal cases. For over 35 years, our law firm has been successfully defending clients accused of this very serious crime.  We’ve successfully helped thousands of clients in their time of legal need, and we can help you now.

Call us today at (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation about your case. We will get through this together.


All of the information provided above was retrieved from the following sources: 

1. 18 USC 2252 – http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2252A

2. PC 311 – http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=00001-01000&file=311-312.7

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