POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY AND TRAFFICKING IN CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

April 14, 2010

Definition, Laws, & Defense

Possessions of child pornography, and the distribution of it, are some of the most targeted activities for investigation by both federal and state law enforcement agencies. Of course, a person has to knowingly possess pornographic images of children to be guilty of possession, and the images have to be real (non-computer generated) images of underage persons (children) for a legitimate prosecution.

Practical problems some people encounter are learning of pornographic images that were loaded onto their sites without their knowledge, or certain images that were transferred without intent to distribute. These situations, in both pre-Indictment and post-Indictment stages, require the use of expert computer forensic services to establish facts that may not be known to investigators.

Both the United States Code (federal criminal laws) and the Texas Penal Code (state criminal laws) contain laws against possession of child pornography and distributing the same. Prosecutions under federal criminal laws can result in harsh sentences due to the existence of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“U.S.S.G.”). The U.S.S.G. is a point system that is driven by the number of images that are the subject of the prosecution, as well as other related enhancements. Such enhancements could include the nature of the images and whether these were shared or distributed.

Title 18, United States Code, Section 2252 and 2252A, set forth the federal crimes regarding possession and/or trafficking of child pornography. Title 18, U.S.C. § 2252A reads as follows:
(Federal Statutes in the United States Code:)
(a) Any person who—
(1) knowingly mails, or transports or ships in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer, any child pornography;
(2) knowingly receives or distributes—
(A) any child pornography that has been mailed, or shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer; or
(B) any material that contains child pornography that has been mailed, or shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer;
(3) knowingly—
(A) reproduces any child pornography for distribution through the mails, or in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer; or
(B) advertises, promotes, presents, distributes, or solicits through the mails, or in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer, any material or purported material in a manner that reflects the belief, or that is intended to cause another to believe, that the material or purported material is, or contains—
(i) an obscene visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
(ii) a visual depiction of an actual minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;
(4) either—
(A) in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or on any land or building owned by, leased to, or otherwise used by or under the control of the United States Government, or in the Indian country (as defined in section 1151), knowingly sells or possesses with the intent to sell any child pornography; or
(B) knowingly sells or possesses with the intent to sell any child pornography that has been mailed, or shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer, or that was produced using materials that have been mailed, or shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer;
(5) either—
(A) in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or on any land or building owned by, leased to, or otherwise used by or under the control of the United States Government, or in the Indian country (as defined in section 1151), knowingly possesses any book, magazine, periodical, film, videotape, computer disk, or any other material that contains an image of child pornography; or
(B) knowingly possesses any book, magazine, periodical, film, videotape, computer disk, or any other material that contains an image of child pornography that has been mailed, or shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer, or that was produced using materials that have been mailed, or shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer; or
(6) knowingly distributes, offers, sends, or provides to a minor any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, where such visual depiction is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct—
(A) that has been mailed, shipped, or transported in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer;
(B) that was produced using materials that have been mailed, shipped, or transported in interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer; or
(C) which distribution, offer, sending, or provision is accomplished using the mails or by transmitting or causing to be transmitted any wire communication in interstate or foreign commerce, including by computer,
for purposes of inducing or persuading a minor to participate in any activity that is illegal.[1]
shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).
(b)
(1) Whoever violates, or attempts or conspires to violate, paragraph (1), (2), (3), (4), or (6) of subsection (a) shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than 5 years and not more than 20 years, but, if such person has a prior conviction under this chapter, chapter 71, chapter 109A, or chapter 117, or under section 920 of title 10 (article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), or under the laws of any State relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor or ward, or the production, possession, receipt, mailing, sale, distribution, shipment, or transportation of child pornography, such person shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for not less than 15 years nor more than 40 years.
(2) Whoever violates, or attempts or conspires to violate, subsection (a)(5) shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both, but, if such person has a prior conviction under this chapter, chapter 71, chapter 109A, or chapter 117, or under section 920 of title 10 (article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), or under the laws of any State relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor or ward, or the production, possession, receipt, mailing, sale, distribution, shipment, or transportation of child pornography, such person shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for not less than 10 years nor more than 20 years.
(c) It shall be an affirmative defense to a charge of violating paragraph (1), (2), (3)(A), (4), or (5) of subsection (a) that—
(1)
(A) the alleged child pornography was produced using an actual person or persons engaging in sexually explicit conduct; and
(B) each such person was an adult at the time the material was produced; or
(2) the alleged child pornography was not produced using any actual minor or minors.
No affirmative defense under subsection (c)(2) shall be available in any prosecution that involves child pornography as described in section 2256 (8)(C). A defendant may not assert an affirmative defense to a charge of violating paragraph (1), (2), (3)(A), (4), or (5) of subsection (a) unless, within the time provided for filing pretrial motions or at such time prior to trial as the judge may direct, but in no event later than 10 days before the commencement of the trial, the defendant provides the court and the United States with notice of the intent to assert such defense and the substance of any expert or other specialized testimony or evidence upon which the defendant intends to rely. If the defendant fails to comply with this subsection, the court shall, absent a finding of extraordinary circumstances that prevented timely compliance, prohibit the defendant from asserting such defense to a charge of violating paragraph (1), (2), (3)(A), (4), or (5) of subsection (a) or presenting any evidence for which the defendant has failed to provide proper and timely notice.
(d) Affirmative Defense.— It shall be an affirmative defense to a charge of violating subsection (a)(5) that the defendant—
(1) possessed less than three images of child pornography; and
(2) promptly and in good faith, and without retaining or allowing any person, other than a law enforcement agency, to access any image or copy thereof—
(A) took reasonable steps to destroy each such image; or
(B) reported the matter to a law enforcement agency and afforded that agency access to each such image.
(e) Admissibility of Evidence.— On motion of the government, in any prosecution under this chapter or section 1466A, except for good cause shown, the name, address, social security number, or other nonphysical identifying information, other than the age or approximate age, of any minor who is depicted in any child pornography shall not be admissible and may be redacted from any otherwise admissible evidence, and the jury shall be instructed, upon request of the United States, that it can draw no inference from the absence of such evidence in deciding whether the child pornography depicts an actual minor.

(f) Civil Remedies.—
(1) In general.— Any person aggrieved by reason of the conduct prohibited under subsection (a) or (b) or section 1466A may commence a civil action for the relief set forth in paragraph (2).
(2) Relief.— In any action commenced in accordance with paragraph (1), the court may award appropriate relief, including—
(A) temporary, preliminary, or permanent injunctive relief;
(B) compensatory and punitive damages; and
(C) the costs of the civil action and reasonable fees for attorneys and expert witnesses.

TEXAS STATUTES – CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

The following are the state criminal laws against possession or distribution of child pornography, as stated in the Texas Penal Code. Note that under state law in Texas, the prohibitions include images of a child younger than eighteen (18) years of age. The following statutes are from Chapter 43, Texas Penal Code, specifically Section 43.26, Possession or Promotion of Child Pornography:

§ 43.26. POSSESSION OR PROMOTION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY.

(a) A person commits an offense if:
(1) the person knowingly or intentionally possesses
visual material that visually depicts a child younger than 18 years
of age at the time the image of the child was made who is engaging in
sexual conduct; and
(2) the person knows that the material depicts the
child as described by Subdivision (1).

(b) In this section:
(1) “Promote” has the meaning assigned by Section
43.25.
(2) “Sexual conduct” has the meaning assigned by
Section 43.25.
(3) “Visual material” means:
(A) any film, photograph, videotape, negative,
or slide or any photographic reproduction that contains or
incorporates in any manner any film, photograph, videotape,
negative, or slide; or
(B) any disk, diskette, or other physical medium
that allows an image to be displayed on a computer or other video screen and any image transmitted to a computer or other video screen by telephone line, cable, satellite transmission, or other method.

(c) The affirmative defenses provided by Section 43.25(f)
also apply to a prosecution under this section.

(d) An offense under Subsection (a) is a felony of the third
degree.

(e) A person commits an offense if:
(1) the person knowingly or intentionally promotes or
possesses with intent to promote material described by Subsection
(a)(1); and
(2) the person knows that the material depicts the
child as described by Subsection (a)(1).

(f) A person who possesses visual material that contains six
or more identical visual depictions of a child as described by
Subsection (a)(1) is presumed to possess the material with the
intent to promote the material.

(g) An offense under Subsection (e) is a felony of the second degree.


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