Understanding Pennsylvania Child Pornography Laws

Child pornography offenses in Pennsylvania are serious felony crimes. In addition to the potential for a long prison sentence and lifetime sex offender registration, being accused of child pornography can also lead to significant social stigma, job loss, problems finding housing, and other ongoing problems.

Because of the high stakes involved for people who are facing child pornography charges, getting help from an experienced child pornography attorney at DiCindio Law as soon after the charges have been filed as possible is critical.

What Is Child Pornography Under Pennsylvania Law?

Pennsylvania’s child pornography law is found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6312. This law criminalizes a number of different actions, including the following:

  • Knowingly videotaping, filming, photographing, or depicting on a computer a minor younger than age 18 engaging in a prohibited sex act or simulating a sex act
  • Knowingly selling, transferring, distributing, disseminating, displaying, or exhibiting photos, videos, pamphlets, books, or magazines containing images of minors younger than age 18 engaging in a prohibited sex act or simulating a sex act
  • Intentionally viewing or possessing pictures, films, magazines, books, or pamphlets containing images of minors engaging in prohibited a sex act or simulating a sex act

Prohibited sex acts under this law include bestiality, masturbation, fellatio, masochism, sadism, cunnilingus, lewdly exhibiting the genitals if doing so is meant for sexual gratification or stimulation of the viewer.

Under this law, it does not matter whether the sex act is simulated or real. It is also not a defense to a charge of filming a minor engaging in a prohibited sex act that the defendant didn’t know the child’s age.

When the depicted minor’s age is disputed, expert witnesses will be used to determine his or her age. This might occur when the child’s identity is unknown or when his or her birth certificate is unavailable.

Child pornography cases can be prosecuted by either the district attorney or the state’s attorney general. If the Pennsylvania Attorney General prosecutes your case, you cannot challenge his or her authority to do so.

Are There Any Exceptions Available?

The law lists a few exceptions to the state’s child pornography laws. Depending on the circumstances that happened in your case, you may or may not be able to raise one of them.

There is an exception for materials that have a credible scientific, educational, judicial, or governmental purpose. If the materials in your possession are determined to have a credible purpose, you should not be charged with child pornography.

There is also an exception for a minor younger than age 18 who videotapes, photographs depict on a computer, or intentionally views himself or herself nude by himself or herself.

Minors who photograph, videotape, or depict themselves alone are also not guilty of child pornography. Finally, minors who are at least 12 and view, film, or disseminate another minor’s explicit photos, videos, or depictions are not guilty of child pornography but may be charged with transmitting sexually explicit images by a minor under 18 Pa.C.S. § 6321.

Finally, if you accidentally viewed or disseminated depictions, photos, or material showing a minor engaged in a prohibited sex act or a simulated sex act, you can defend against child pornography charges.

An example of when this might happen is if malware or a virus suddenly opens a number of images of child pornography on your computer.

What Are The Penalties For Pennsylvania Child Pornography Convictions?

If you are convicted of viewing or disseminating child pornography as a first offense, it is a third-degree felony. This offense carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

If you are convicted of filming or depicting child pornography, it is a second-degree felony carrying a potential prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Similarly, if you are convicted of a second offense for viewing or disseminating child pornography, it is a second-degree felony with a potential prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Federal Child Pornography Offenses

You can also be charged under federal law for child pornography offenses if you viewed, disseminated, possessed, or created child pornography when it was sent or received across state lines.

The federal criminal laws cover acts that involve interstate commerce. Child pornography is frequently disseminated online and over state lines, which means that you could face both federal and state charges for child porn offenses.

Several federal laws apply to child pornography. It is illegal to distribute or receive child porn in any way that affects interstate commerce, including online or by mail. It is also illegal to sell, advertise, or reproduce materials that crossed state lines.

It is similarly illegal to transport children to sexually exploit them or to sexually exploit children. Federal law also addresses people located outside of the U.S. and prohibits them from doing anything with child pornography while intending to send the materials to the U.S.

You could also face child porn charges under federal law if you access or possess child pornography in a government building or on government-owned land.

The federal government can also prosecute you for child pornography if you attempt to engage in any prohibited activity surrounding child pornography even if you do not actually complete it.

Finally, you could face federal charges for viewing, disseminating, sending, transmitting, selling, advertising, or reproducing suggestive or nude photos of minors younger than age 18 even if they are not engaged in a sex act.

Sex Offender Registration

You might also have to register as a sex offender if you are convicted of child pornography. If you are convicted more than one time, it is possible that you might be ordered to register as a sexually violent predator.

Contact Our Sex Crimes Law Firm in West Chester, PA

If you are facing criminal charges and need legal help, contact the West Chester, PA sex crimes lawyers at DiCindioLaw, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.

DiCindio Law, LLC

29 S Walnut St
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 430-3535

***This blog article is made available by the law firm publisher for educational purposes and to provide general information, not to provide specific legal advice. By reading, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant. The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. Please contact DiCindio Law, LLC for a consultation and to discuss what law is relevant to your case. ***