Convictions on federal child pornography charges often mean prison time. And the government mandates minimum sentences for some offenders, and maximum penalties can be severe.

There are several viable defenses to charges of this nature, though, and plea bargains are sometimes an option as well. If you are facing child pornography charges in Florida or at the federal level, or if investigators recently searched your home and seized equipment such as a computer, seek counsel with a criminal defense attorney at Goldman Wetzel if you are in the St. Petersburg area.

What constitutes child pornography under federal law?

Under 18 U.S. Code § 2252, federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction of a person or persons under the age of 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. 18 U.S. Code § 1466A calls this “visual representations of the sexual abuse of children.”

Peer-to-peer sexually explicit images of teenagers under 18 also qualifies as child pornography. Child pornography can be in any visual form, including photos, film, video, picture, or computer-generated images.

“Undeveloped film, undeveloped videotape, and electronically stored data that can be converted into a visual image of child pornography are also deemed illegal visual depictions under federal law,” explains the Department of Justice (DOJ).

What are the federal penalties for child pornography?

There are statutory minimum and maximum penalties for most federal child pornography charges. The only exception is for first time offenders who have been charged with possession of child pornography. In this case, there is no mandatory minimum sentence, though the offender may still face prison time.

Below are the basic guidelines for federal child pornography penalties.

Offense Sentencing – First Offense Sentencing – Prior Sex Offense Convictions
Possession of child pornography or of obscene visual representations of child sexual abuse images [18 U.S. Code §§ 2252, 2252A, 1466A] No minimum – 10 years maximum 10 years minimum – 20 years maximum
Transportation, receipt, distribution, or possession with intent to sell child pornography or of obscene visual representations of child sexual abuse images [18 U.S. Code §§§ 2252, 2252A, 1466A] 5 years minimum – 20 years maximum 15 years minimum – 40 years maximum

If the pornography involved aggravated factors, such as images that were violent, sadistic, or masochistic in nature, or if the offender has priors for child sexual exploitation, the defendant may face penalties up to life imprisonment depending on the circumstances.

The exact sentencing for each defendant will be up to the prosecutor’s or federal court’s discretion, within the above markers. Numerous factors can affect the court’s decision, including the nature and details of the case, prior criminal record, and the tendencies of the court.

How do I defend against my child pornography charges?

We will investigate your case and help you build your defense based on the facts of your case. There are cases where users unknowingly download files containing child pornography, for example. This can happen when someone clicks on a link or image and the download commences immediately without the user knowing what is in the file.

Child pornography offenders may face state and federal charges. We can defend you at both levels. Contact Goldman Wetzel at 727-828-3900 to talk about your case with a criminal defense attorney.

Get the latest legal updates and news you want! Sign up for our monthly newsletter.