Child Pornography Charges in California

Child Pornography Charges in California

It is against the law in California to possess, send, control, develop, duplicate, transport or advertise child pornography, and if you are caught with photos, videos or computer files that depict a minor under the age of 18 engaged in a sexual act, whether the act is actual or simulated, you could face criminal charges for child pornography. If you have been charged with a child pornography crime in California, you need a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side who can protect your rights and help you navigate the complicated criminal justice system. The California courts impose stiff penalties upon those found guilty of child pornography-related offenses and a conviction can result in a punishment of up to eight years in prison, $100,000 in fines and lifetime registration as a sex offender. Child pornography is a criminal charge that can have a devastating impact on the rest of your life, so don’t wait to hire a lawyer to fight the charges.

Child Pornography – Penal Code § 311 PC

A violation of California child pornography laws is a serious crime and the definition of child pornography is so broadly defined by the California Penal Code that you could be breaking the law without even realizing it. California child pornography offenses are prosecuted under Penal Code Sections 311.1, 311.2, 311.3, 311.4, 311.10 and 311.11, the contents of which are explained in further detail below:

  • Penal Code §§ 311.1 and 311.2 PC prohibit the act of knowingly sending, transporting, producing, possessing or duplicating child pornography with the intent to distribute it.
  • Penal Code § 311.3 PC prohibits the act of knowingly developing, duplicating, printing or exchanging child pornography (sexual exploitation of a child).
  • Penal Code § 311.4 PC prohibits the act of knowingly hiring, employing, using, persuading or coercing a minor to participate in the production of child pornography.
  • Penal Code § 311.10 PC prohibits the act of knowingly advertising obscene child pornography for sale or distribution.
  • Penal Code § 311.11 PC prohibits the act of knowingly possessing or controlling any child pornography that was produced using a person under the age of 18.

Each of these laws describes a separate criminal offense, and if you are accused of committing a crime involving child pornography, you could be prosecuted under any of these criminal statutes. There are also several other criminal offenses related to child pornography in California, including lewd acts with a child (Penal Code § 288 PC), statutory rape (Penal Code § 261.5 PC) and revenge porn (Penal Code § 647(j)(4)).

Federal Child Pornography Crimes

Possessing, distributing, receiving or producing child pornography is also a crime under federal law, as is sexual exploitation of a minor. If the alleged child pornography offense you are accused of committing occurred in interstate or foreign commerce (meaning it crossed state lines or international borders via U.S. mail or another common carrier), you could be charged with a federal crime. Additionally, federal law almost always applies any time the Internet is used to commit a child pornography offense.

What Constitutes Child Pornography?

If you are accused of committing a child pornography-related offense in California, you can face charges under any of the criminal statutes mentioned above. While these child pornography laws may seem relatively simple and straightforward, there are important elements of each statute that must be fully understood if you hope to mount a compelling defense and beat the charges. For instance, if you are facing charges for child pornography in California, you may have questions about what constitutes “child pornography” and what it means to “knowingly” possess, send or produce it. A California criminal defense attorney with experience handling child pornography cases understands the specific elements of each state law and knows what it takes to beat the charges. When you hire our criminal defense attorneys at Sevens Legal Criminal Lawyers, we will ensure that you understand the charges against you and do everything in our power to keep the prosecution from meeting its requisite burden of proof.

“Child Pornography”

Each state has its own laws regarding what qualifies as child pornography. For the purposes of California law, the term “child pornography” refers to:

  1. Any matter or material,
  2. depicting sexual conduct,
  3. by a person under 18 years of age.

This explanation can be broken down even further. For instance, “matter” can include such items as films, photographs, negatives, slides, videotapes, photocopies or computer-generated images. “Sexual conduct” can include such acts as sexual intercourse, oral copulation, anal intercourse, or masturbation, whether actual or simulated.


Each of California’s child pornography laws includes the term “knowingly,” which is an extremely important element. It means that you can only be found guilty under California’s child pornography laws if you:

  1. Knew the nature of the material you were possessing, advertising, transporting, etc. and
  2. Knew that the material depicted a person under the age of 18 participating in sexual conduct.

For instance, if you accidentally download an image onto your computer without realizing that the image contains child pornography, you are not guilty of the crime of possessing child pornography.

Examples of Child Pornography

California’s child pornography laws cover a wide range of activities and it is possible to face charges for child pornography even if you are not the one who physically created or produced the pornographic material. For instance, if you own a print shop and you allow someone to print pornographic photos depicting minors to send to customers through the mail, you could be guilty of developing and trafficking child pornography.

You can even be charged with child pornography if the sexual conduct depicted in a pornographic photo or video that you produced was consensual. For instance, if you are a high school student and you video a sexual encounter with another underage student on your phone, you could be guilty of possessing child pornography under California law.

It is important to note that California’s child pornography laws do not cover pornographic images where no actual people are depicted. That means, if you download or produce an anime video that depicts sexual acts involving a minor, the video is not considered child pornography under California law. The same is true for drawings, sketches, animations and cartoons.

The Age Rule in Child Pornography Cases

Determining the age of the person depicted in the pornographic material is critical when it comes to pursuing child pornography charges. If the person was over the age of 18 when the material was produced, it is not considered child pornography, even if the person looks much younger than 18. Conversely, if the person looks much older but is actually younger than 18, the material is, in fact, considered child pornography. There are two important exceptions to the age rule in California child pornography cases. Minors who are legally emancipated are not included and neither are consensual acts between married individuals, even if one or both individuals is under the age of 18.

Facing Child Pornography Charges in California

Crimes against children are taken very seriously in the state of California. Due to advancements in technology, it is easier than ever to download, produce and share sexually explicit images of minors, and as child pornography becomes easier and easier to access, California prosecutors have become more aggressive in pursuing charges against offenders. That is why we always recommend seeking legal advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney with a proven record of success defending clients against child pornography charges. Because of personal biases and opinions about the nature of San Diego child pornography offenses, it can be extremely challenging for those accused of possessing, distributing, producing or transporting child pornography to receive a fair trial. However, you have a right to a fair trial with an impartial jury and a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will work tirelessly to investigate the facts surrounding your arrest, protect your legal rights and ensure that the court makes a proper, unbiased ruling in your case. At Sevens Legal Criminal Lawyers, we know how devastating child pornography claims can be for you and your loved ones, and our competent and capable criminal defense attorneys will help you resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Our California Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help

Child pornography is a form of child sexual exploitation and such crimes against children are punished extremely harshly under California law. The repercussions of a California child pornography charge can be devastating and long-lasting, given the social stigma that convicted offenders face, on top of the jail or prison sentence, lifetime sex offender registration and hefty fines that accompany a conviction. If you have been arrested for possessing, controlling, exchanging or advertising child pornography for sale or distribution, the very first thing you should do after your arrest is consult a skilled California child pornography defense attorney to discuss your case and determine the best possible defense strategy. Our defense team at Sevens Legal Criminal Lawyers has years of experience representing clients in difficult criminal cases and we can help you avoid the life-changing consequences of a child pornography conviction.