The National Trial Lawyers

Possession of Child Pornography

A conviction for possession of child pornography (also known as “knowing purchase or possession of visual material of child depicted in sexual conduct”) may result in a state prison sentence and will require the defendant to register as a sex offender.

Elements of Possession of Child Pornography

In order to convict a defendant of possessing child pornography, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant knowingly purchased or possessed a negative, film, slide, magazine, book, photograph, videotape, or a similar visual reproduction, or computer depiction, of any child whom the defendant knows or reasonably should know to be under the age of 18 years;
  2. Such child is, actually or by simulation, engaged in any act of natural or unnatural sexual intercourse, lewd fondling, masturbation, touching, excretion or urination within a sexual context, caressing, or otherwise engaged in a sexual context; and
  3. The defendant knew about the content of the image.

There are enhanced penalties for distribution of child pornography.

Common Defenses and Defense Strategies

Possession of child pornography cases can be defended in a variety of ways.

  • Identity of the Possessor - The commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly purchased or possessed the child pornography. Most of these cases involve possession of the images on a computer. A common defense involves access to the computer. If more than one person has access to the computer, it may be difficult for the Commonwealth to prove who downloaded the images.
  • Apparent Age of the Model - In many cases, the model is a teenager. The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew, or should have known, that the model was under the age of 18.
  • Whether the image is “Lewd” - Not all images of naked children satisfy the legal definition of child pornography. Click here to learn what qualifies as a “lewd exhibition.”

This is the type of crime where law enforcement authorities generally need the defendant’s help to obtain a conviction. These cases typically result from police officers who work in an undercover capacity trading images or videos of child pornography on the Internet. Once they either receive child pornography or send child pornography to a third party, the undercover officer will obtain the IP address of the computer that the third party is using. The undercover officer usually will then obtain a search warrant to seize the computer from the target. When the undercover officer executes the search warrant and seizes the computer, he or she always tries to establish that the target was the only person who uses the computer. It’s amazing how many people will make admissions to law enforcement authorities and confess to possessing or distributing the illegal images. If an officer ever arrives at your doorstep with a warrant, politely refuse to make any statements about anything until you have consulted with a criminal defense attorney.

Given the serious consequences that result from a conviction for possession of child pornography, it is essential that you have an attorney who is experienced in trying these types of cases. Attorney Chris Spring has successfully defended individuals facing indictment for child pornography charges.

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