California pornography laws criminalize the possession, production, copying, transportation, sale and advertisement of child pornography, and if you are found guilty of a child pornography-related crime in California, you could face a misdemeanor or felony conviction carrying harsh, long-lasting penalties. Child pornography is one of the most commonly charged sex crimes in California. In fact, the California Penal Code has several different criminal statutes that make child pornography illegal and prosecutors have begun to aggressively prosecute violations of these laws. As such, California child pornography cases can be complex and challenging, especially for defendants who aren’t familiar with the criminal court process. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime related to the creation, publication or distribution of child pornography, you should know about some common defenses against child pornography-related charges in California. Contact our trusted California criminal defense attorneys at Sevens Legal Criminal Lawyers today to find out how we can help you in your child pornography case.
Defending Against Child Pornography Charges
When it comes to child pornography charges, working with an experienced Sand Diego child pornography defense lawyer who understands the law and who can expertly defend you against these serious allegations may mean the difference between serving time in jail or prison and preserving your freedom. In order to get a conviction in your child pornography case, the prosecution must prove that you knowingly broke the law, which is not as easy as you might think. For instance, if the charge is possession of child pornography, it is possible that you simply clicked on the wrong link or inadvertently downloaded a file with malware that put child pornography on your computer. In either case, you are not guilty of violating California’s child pornography laws because you did not intentionally seek out or download the obscene material knowing that it was child pornography. Even if you knowingly had possession of pornographic material on your computer, it is possible that you thought that the individuals depicted in the pornographic material were adults, not minors. The point is, there are many different avenues your attorney can pursue in defending you against the criminal charges.
What is Child Pornography?
Each state has its own laws regarding what constitutes child pornography and what types of activities can lead to criminal charges. In California, it is against the law to produce, possess, print, duplicate, send, advertise, transport or distribute any material that depicts minors (individuals under the age of 18) in sexual situations, whether those situations are real or simulated. It is also against the law to hire or persuade minors to participate in the production of pornographic material. The following are the most commonly prosecuted child pornography-related offenses in the state of California:
- Penal Code §§ 311.1 and 311.2 PC – Producing or Distributing Child Pornography
- Penal Code § 311.3 PC – Sexual Exploitation of a Child
- Penal Code § 311.4 PC – Hiring or Recruiting a Minor for Child Pornography
- Penal Code § 311.10 PC – Advertising Child Pornography
- Penal Code § 311.11 PC – Possessing Child Pornography
Elements of Child Pornography Crimes
As with any criminal offense, there are specific elements to child pornography charges that the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a defendant to be found guilty. These elements vary from case to case depending on the facts of the case and the nature of the child pornography charge. For instance, if you are accused of possessing child pornography in violation of California Penal Code § 311.11 PC, the prosecution must prove the following elements of the crime in order to get a conviction:
- You knowingly possessed or controlled pornographic material, and
- You knew the material depicted a minor under the age of 18.
If you are accused of hiring, recruiting, persuading or coercing a minor to participate in the production of child pornography in violation of California Penal Code § 311.4 PC, the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You hired, recruited or coerced a person to participate in pornography or you attempted to do so, and
- You knew that person was under the age of 18.
Establishing the Requisite State of Mind
One of the key common elements of California child pornography offenses is state of mind. California law dictates that a defendant must have “knowingly” engaged in any of the conduct mentioned above in order to be found guilty of a child pornography crime. For example, if you are accused of violating PC § 311.11, you can only be found guilty of the crime if you had knowledge of the sexual nature of the material and the age of the person depicted in the material. If there is reasonable doubt regarding whether you knew either of these facts, i.e. if you downloaded an image onto your computer without realizing that the image portrayed someone engaged in a sexual act or not knowing that the person depicted in the sexual act was a minor under the age of 18, you should be acquitted of the crime because the requisite state of mind for criminal activity was not present.
While it may sound like an impossible task to prove what exactly the defendant knew or didn’t know at the time the pornographic material was possessed or controlled, the state does not have to rely on an admission that the defendant knew what he or she was doing to establish state of mind. In fact, something as simple as a search history for “child sex” or “underage girls” may be enough to show that the defendant knew that the material in question was child pornography. On the other hand, it is entirely possible for claims of child pornography possession or distribution to be made against innocent individuals. In fact, false allegations of child pornography are not uncommon, especially in today’s digital world where images and videos are shared and downloaded with the click of a button. You could even be framed for the crime of possessing child porn by an angry spouse, ex-lover, employee or coworker. Whatever the circumstances of the charges against you, it is in your best interest to seek legal guidance from an experienced California criminal defense lawyer, even if you know that you are innocent of the crime
Defense Strategies in Child Pornography Cases
Child pornography charges are taken very seriously in California and if you are found guilty of a child pornography-related crime, the conviction can follow you for the rest of your life, damaging your career, your reputation and your relationships with friends and family. However, just because you have been arrested for a child pornography offense does not mean you will be convicted of the crime. You have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the law, and the best way to ensure that your rights are protected is to hire an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney to represent your case. A good defense lawyer can craft a compelling defense and present evidence and testimony that raises reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors, thereby improving your chances of acquittal. Some examples of common defenses in California child pornography cases include the following:
- The material in question does not constitute child pornography;
- The alleged child pornography has a legitimate purpose (i.e. you were engaged in legitimate medical, scientific or educational activities);
- You did not act knowingly (i.e. you downloaded an image without realizing that the image contained child pornography);
- The pornographic material does not belong to you (i.e. the computer containing the pornographic images has multiple users, such as in a work setting);
- The minor was legally emancipated at the time the pornographic material was produced;
- The evidence against you was obtained during an illegal search and seizure (i.e. the police searched your computer either without a search warrant or with a defective warrant); or
- You were the victim of entrapment (i.e. you were lured into committing the crime because of an undercover police officer’s harassment, pressure, fraud or threats).
Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
Child pornography offenses are prosecuted aggressively in California and the penalties associated with a child pornography conviction are far-reaching and long-lasting. Given the broad scope of California’s child pornography laws and how easily images and videos are shared over the Internet, you could easily find yourself facing child pornography charges for conduct that you believed to be innocent. Or you could have been the victim of an illegal search and seizure or even been induced by an undercover police officer to commit a child pornography crime that you would not have otherwise committed had the officer not contacted you and persuaded you to do so. With a skilled California criminal defense attorney on your side, you may be able to get the charges reduced to a lesser offense or possibly even avoid criminal prosecution altogether. The sooner you retain the services of a knowledgeable California child pornography defense lawyer, the better your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome in your case, so don’t wait to contact our firm.