Child Pornography Lawyers Los Angeles

 

Possession of child pornography involves viewing images or films depicting sexually explicit activities involving a child. The Internet and the advent of digital cameras have increased the availability and accessibility of child pornography. Increasingly, lawmakers are concerned about regulating criminal activity over the internet and increasing penalties for alleged possession of child pornography and other internet-related sex crimes.

Federal versus state prosecution

Federal law governs child pornography through pieces of legislation such as the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation Act of 1977 and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.  Under federal law, child pornography is defined as: “any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where:”

  1. The production of such visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;
  2. Such visual depiction is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;
  3. Such visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
  4. Such visual depiction is advertised, promoted, presented, described, or distributed in such a manner that conveys the impression that the material is or contains a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

The definition of “minor” varies from state to state but in California is defined as any person under 18.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) coordinates programs to track and to prosecute child pornography offenses across states. The DOJ shares information with state authorities, and DOJ efforts link local police departments to federal investigations.  The DOJ also maintains a database of images of child pornography, which have been confirmed as illegal to assist them in the prosecution of these offenses.

Federal jurisdiction is triggered when any part of the offense occured in interstate or foreign commerce. This includes any time the Internet is used in the comission of such a crime, and any time any material (such as a computer or digital disc) crosses state or international borders.

Federal law defines “sexually explicit conduct” as the following, whether actual or simulated:

  1. Sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex;
  2. Bestiality;
  3. Masturbation;
  4. Sadistic or masochistic abuse; or
  5. Lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.

California state law also prohibits the following:

  • Viewing, creating, or sending images of minors touching or displaying bodies “for the purpose of sexual stimulation of the viewer”
  • Inducing a minor to commit a lewd act over the internet
  • Lewd internet chatting with a minor
  • Arranging to meet a minor for a lewd purpose
  • Sexting

Sexting

“Sexting” involves sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, principally between cell phones.  Sexting is quite common among teens and is difficult to monitor and control.

Legal issues involving sexting are complex.  Among other things, sexting occurs between two people who may consent to the exchange of images in a very private setting yet who are unknowingly subject to potential criminal prosecution.

First Amendment Issues

Content that depicts children engaged in sexual conduct is considered beyond the “freedom of expression” that the First Amendment protects. Thus, unlike pornographic images of adults, the First Amendment does not protect the possession or distribution of child pornography.  Images that might otherwise be considered child pornography may be displayed in a permissible purpose and thereby protected under the First Amendment.  For example, imagines of a child's genitalia might legitimately and appropriately appear in a medical textbook. The context is significant.  For instance, the same images might be impermissible when displayed on an adult website.

Fourth Amendment: “Search and Seizure” Issues

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.  Many courts describe this as protecting a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

It is not always easy to describe where individuals have such as “reasonable expectation of privacy.”  Recently, a Montana resident used a work computer to access child pornography.  Review of his computer files revealed his activities and he was subsequently indicted and convicted for possession of child pornography.  The man appealed, arguing that the search and seizure of his work computer violated his Fourth Amendment rights and that he had a reasonable expectation that his workplace computer was private.  The Federal Court of Appeals disagreed, thought that an employer search of a work computer could be expected, and held that the search of the man's computer did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

What if the images are virtual children?

Generally speaking, state and federal law require that actual children be depicted in a sexually suggestive manner, or engaged in sexual conduct , in order for the images to be illegal. However, there are notable exceptions to this law when images are deemed to be "virtually indistinguishable" or appear to be depict an identifiable and actual minor.  This is a complicated area in the law and one which requires the expertise of attorneys dedicated to sex crimes defense.

Punishment for Child Pornography

The following are potential penalties for possession and/or distribution of child pornography in state and federal cases.  These penalties may include:

Federal Penalties

  • Substantial federal prison time
  • 5 or 10 year mandatory minimum prison sentence depending on whether distribution of the images is alleged
  • Sex registration for life pursuant to California Penal Code §290 requirements
  • Sex offender treatment and counseling

State Penalties

  • County jail or state prison time
  • Sex registration for life pursuant to California Penal Code §290 requirements
  • Sex offender treatment and counseling

We Can Help

At White Goldstein, our attorneys are highly experienced at defending child pornography cases and internet sex crimes cases.  If you or someone you know has been accused of possessing or distributing of child pornography, or an internet sex crime, contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.

Call us at: (877) 77 WE-WIN or (877) 779-3946.

White Goldstein has extensive experience handling child pornography & internet sex crimes cases throughout Southern California including Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, San Diego County, Santa Barbara County, and Ventura County.

White Goldstein

At White Goldstein, we provide our clients, and their loved ones, with nothing less than excellence in criminal defense. Unlike many criminal defense attorneys in Los Angeles, we fight for our clients with compassion and emotion as well as intellect and skill because we genuinely care for our clients and their families

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