When are Child Pornography Charges Prosecuted at the Federal Level?

In the past, most forms of pornography were illegal, and obscenity laws prohibited the creation or possession of sexually explicit material. Many of these laws no longer apply, and pornography has become more and more acceptable in today’s society. However, child pornography is still illegal, and possession of any pornographic materials that depict children in a sexually explicit manner could result in serious criminal charges.

Because child pornography involves the exploitation of children, it is taken very seriously by law enforcement. Those who are convicted of charges related to the creation, possession, or distribution of these types of materials can face lengthy prison sentences, as well as the requirement to register as a sex offender.

What many people may not realize is that in addition to facing charges under state laws, a person can also be prosecuted under federal laws for child pornography offenses. In these cases, a person will likely face even more severe penalties. To mount an effective defense against federal charges, a defendant will want to work with a Chicago federal crimes defense lawyer who is experienced in cases involving child pornography,exploitation of children, and other sex crimes.

When can a Person Be Charged with Crimes Related to Child Pornography?

Child pornography can consist of any visual depictions of a minor under the age of 18 who is engaging in sexual conduct. These may include photographs and videos, as well as other depictions that are indistinguishable from images of an actual minor, such as computer generated images or pictures or videos that have been modified to appear to depict an identifiable minor. Images do not have to be explicitly sexual; depictions of unclothed minors that are sexually suggestive or are used for sexual purposes may be considered child pornography. It is also important to note that any sexually explicit depictions of a child under the age of 18 are considered child pornography, regardless of the age of consent in a particular state.

Charges related to child pornography will typically address the possession, distribution, or creation of these types of materials. Possession may include owning any forms of child pornography, including photos, magazines, books, videotapes, film, or electronic files. Distribution of child pornography may include selling, promoting, advertising, or transferring illegal photographs or videos to others, as well as transporting materials, sending them through the mail, or transmitting electronic files through the internet. In some cases, possession of a certain amount of child pornography or multiple copies of a single depiction of a child engaging in sexual conduct may be considered evidence that a person intends to sell or distribute this material.

The creation of sexually explicit material involving children is often the most serious child pornography charge that a person can face, since it involves the direct exploitation of a minor. Persuading, enticing, or coercing a minor to participate in the creation of sexually explicit materials can result in criminal charges. A child’s parent or legal guardian may also face charges if they allow a child to participate in a visual depiction of sexual conduct, including taking photographs or videos or transmitting live videos over the internet.

When Do Federal Child Pornography Charges Apply?

State child pornography laws will usually apply in situations where the possession, distribution, or creation of illegal materials took place within one state. If child pornography charges involved interstate or foreign commerce, federal charges may apply. In these cases, an alleged offender may be investigated by federal agencies, and a federal prosecutor will pursue charges in federal courts. Mandatory minimum sentences will apply, and a person who is convicted will be incarcerated in a federal prison.

Interstate or foreign commerce may include any transportation or transmission of child pornography across state lines or international borders. This may include sending physical materials through the mail or other shipping services, physically transporting materials, or advertising or soliciting child pornography in multiple states or countries. Transporting a child across state lines or international borders for the purpose of creating sexually explicit materials can also result in federal charges for the creation of child pornography.

In most cases, child pornography cases involving the internet will be prosecuted at the federal level, since making files available for download will usually result in the transmission of illegal materials to multiple states or countries. Even if child pornography was not sold or transported outside of a single state, federal charges may still apply if the computers, recording equipment, or other devices or materials used to create child pornography were obtained through foreign or interstate commerce.

A conviction for federal child pornography possession charges involving material that was sold, transported, or transmitted using foreign or interstate commerce can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years. If the materials depicted a child under the age of 12, the maximum prison sentence is increased to 20 years.

A person who is convicted of knowingly mailing, transporting, shipping, receiving, distributing, advertising, or promoting child pornography through the mail or other forms of foreign or interstate commerce or possessing or selling child pornography that was obtained through foreign or interstate commerce will face a prison sentence of 5-20 years. If a person had previously been convicted of federal child pornography charges or state charges of sexual abuse, sexual conduct involving a child, child sex trafficking, or child pornography, they will face a prison sentence of 15-40 years.

Federal child pornography charges involving the exploitation of children will result in the most serious penalties. A conviction for the creation of child pornography that will be involved in foreign or interstate commerce will result in a prison sentence of 15-30 years. A second offense can be punished by 25-50 years in prison, and a third offense will result in a prison sentence of 35 years to life. If the creation of child pornography resulted in someone’s death, an offender will be sentenced to 35 years to life in prison, and they could potentially face the death penalty.

Charges related to child pornography can drastically affect a person’s life, reputation, and freedom. However, all defendants deserve to be represented by a qualified attorney, and those who are facing these charges will want to work with a Chicago federal criminal defense attorney who can protect their rights and help them determine the best way to proceed with their case.

Author : 

Attorney Hal M. Garfinkel Chicago federal crimes defense lawyer practices criminal defense law in Chicago, IL at his firm, the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel. For nearly 20 years, Attorney Garfinkel, a former prosecutor, has been making waves as a participant in many high-profile Illinois criminal cases. He is available 24/7 to assist his clients, no matter the circumstances.

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