time to learn about child pornography laws in California

California has its own state laws that prohibit certain activities in connection with child pornography. This is in addition to the even stronger federal laws that have higher penalties. California’s child pornography laws prohibit a broad range of conduct in connection with this material. If you have been accused of the crime, you need a child pornography lawyer to understand your legal options and work to protect your rights.

What Is Prohibited by Child Pornography Laws in California?

California child pornography laws prohibit the following:

  • Sending, transporting, producing, or duplicating child pornography
  • Developing, printing, and exchanging child pornography
  • Hiring, employing, or persuading a minor to engage in child pornography
  • Advertising child pornography for sale or distribution
  • Possessing child pornography

The Laws Require Knowledge, Which Is the Same as Intent

California’s child pornography laws require that a person engage in prohibited conduct knowingly in order for them to be guilty of a crime. This means that a defendant cannot be guilty of child pornography crimes by accident. Not only does it mean that they must know that the material is child pornography, but they must also have the intent to do the acts prohibited by the law. This is a high bar for the prosecutor to prove, but they may try if they feel that they have the evidence. 

A defendant cannot be guilty of child pornography crimes by accident.

Defenses to California Child Pornography Charges

There are other defenses to child pornography charges the way that the law is written. California child pornography laws define “child pornography” as “any matter or material depicting sexual conduct by a child under 18 years old. The definition is arguably narrower than the one used in federal laws. Your child pornography lawyer could use a number of defenses based on this definition:

  • What was depicted in the picture was not “sexual conduct”
  • The person in the picture was actually not under 18 years old
  • You did not know that the content was child pornography

In California, child pornography laws require an actual sexual act to be depicted. Nude pictures of children with nothing else involved would not meet the definition of child pornography. 

In addition, you could also use some of the same defenses that would be available if you were charged federally. When enforcing child pornography laws, police and prosecutors must still respect your legal rights. This means that they cannot do the following:

  • Pressure or induce you into committing a crime that you never otherwise would have committed, which constitutes entrapment. Your child pornography lawyer could argue that entrapment was the only reason why you engaged in the conduct.
  • Violate your rights by illegally conducting a search and seizing evidence from you. Like any other criminal justice matter, law enforcement must obtain a warrant based on probable cause. There are exceptions to the rule, but they would be limited. Your child pornography lawyer could always mount an attack on the legality of the evidence because this is always the basis for any charges against you.

California Child Pornography Laws Allow it to Be Charged as a Misdemeanor or Felony

In California, child pornography is what is known as a “wobbler” crime. The prosecutor has the ability to charge it as either a felony or misdemeanor. It is up to the prosecutor at their discretion what to charge. Presumably, they would reserve felony charges for more serious instances. However, prosecutors have been known to be overaggressive in their charging. They may charge the case as a felony with the aim of obtaining a plea agreement to a misdemeanor crime. 

Penalties for Violations of California Child Pornography Laws

Here are the penalties for child pornography under California state law:

  • Misdemeanor convictions can result in up to a one-year sentence in county jail and/or a fine of $1,000-$2,500
  • Felony convictions will result in a jail sentence of up to eight years in California state prison. The minimum jail sentence for a felony conviction is 16 months. 

California child pornography laws will also classify someone who has been convicted as a sex offender. This means that they must register as a sex offender after they complete their sentence. This will have many impacts on someone’s life, including:

  • Inability to live in close proximity to certain places, such as schools
  • Difficulty getting hired for certain jobs
  • Public embarrassment over an action from your past
  • Negative impact on your custody situation

You Could Face Both State and Federal Charges

Importantly, if you stand accused of conduct that could violate both state and federal law, you could face both state and federal charges. While the doctrine of double jeopardy prevents people from being prosecuted twice for the same crime, the dual-sovereignty doctrine holds that a crime under one government’s laws is not the same crime under the laws of another government. Since the state and federal governments are distinct, both could prosecute you for violating their respective child pornography laws.

you need a child pornography lawyer

If you are facing state or federal child pornography accusations or charges, the laws can be complex. Since these cases are based largely on physical evidence, you need an attorney immediately to protect your rights. Law enforcement may be more careful when they know that you have an attorney on your side who can call attention to any mistakes or misdeeds. You are better off doing this early in the process when law enforcement may be still in evidence-gathering mode.

Call Us Today to Speak with a Los Angeles Child Pornography Lawyer

If you have been charged with state or federal sex crimes relating to child pornography, the attorneys at the Liberty Bell Law Group are here to help you. We can immediately get to the bottom of your case and develop a legal strategy. In the meantime, we will work to protect your legal rights. Call us today at (855) 529-7761 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation. You cannot afford to be without a lawyer when your reputation and freedom are at stake.

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Executive Managing Attorney Gina Tennen is a renowned leading advocate of personal liberties. Her meticulous trial preparation and exceptional ability to pursue every possible defense has earned her the admiration of clients and respect from prosecutors, judges, and other criminal attorneys all over the nation.

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