Under Section 6312 of Title 18 of Pennsylvania, it is a crime to photograph, videotape or other otherwise depict on a computer sexual acts involving a minor under the age of 18 years. Intentional viewership and willful possession are also treated as crimes. (The law presumes to make the distinction between "intentional" viewership and non-intentional viewership. characterizing it as "purposeful, deliberate and voluntary despite intent and purpose between relatively abstract concepts that are difficult to define and prove.) Any dissemination thereof is also a crime under the statute. The law employs a robust definition of dissemination, meaning any person who"knowingly sells, distributes, delivers, disseminates, transfers, displays or exhibits to others, or who possesses for the purpose of sale, distribution, delivery, dissemination, transfer, display or exhibition to others, any book, magazine, pamphlet, slide, photograph" depicting child pornography could be found guilty. The conduct depicted must qualify as one of the prohibited sexual acts defined in section 3103, Prohibited sexual acts to which this law applies include "masturbation, sadism, masochism, bestiality, fellatio, cunnilingus, lewd exhibition of the genitals or nudity if such nudity is depicted for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification of any person who might view such depiction." Viewership and dissemination as a first-time offense are treated as third-degree penalties. Subsequent offenses are second-degree penalties. Filming/photographing the acts in question showing indecent contact with a child are treated as a second-degree penalty.
Pennsylvania law criminalizes the viewership/ownership/dissemination of such materials regardless of whether or not the act is real or simulated. It must be noted for those charged with filming child pornography, there is a special caveat unique to their charge - "it is no defense that the defendant did not know the age of the child. Neither a misrepresentation of age by the child nor a bona fide belief that the person is over the specified age shall be a defense." This means that it is immaterial to the court whether the accused believed in good faith that the child was of age.
In order to establish that a person alleged to be a child was, in fact, a child (if this matter is in dispute), then expert testimony will be used to determine the subject's age if identity of the child or their birth records are not available to the court.
The defendant in a child pornography case and their lawyer are expressly prohibited from challenging the authority of the attorney general to prosecute the case.
Exceptions and Defenses to Child Pornography Laws in Pennsylvania
There are a handful of exceptions that apply to child pornography laws in the state, which may or may not be leveraged into a defense for the accused, depending on the circumstances of their charges. They are as follows:
- materials that are seen as having some type of credible educational, scientific, governmental or judicial purpose will not be subject to the state's child pornography laws
- a person under the age of 18 views, photographs, videotapes, or otherwise depicts and disseminates footage of themselves and themselves only
- a minor views, films, or disseminates pornographic content of another minor that is at least 12 years of age
It shall be considered a defense to a child pornography viewership or dissemination charge if it can be proven that the defendant viewed or disseminated the material accidentally or involuntarily.
Penalties for Child Pornography Charges in Pennsylvania
As second degree felonies, the punishment for viewership and dissemination are up to 5 years in prison for a first offense. Subsequent offenses, (provided the first offense resulted in a conviction) become third-degree penalties and have a maximum prison term of up to 10 years. The filming and depiction of child pornography acts is a second-degree felony and thereby subject to a maximum prison term of 10 years.
Sex Offender Registration
In addition to the lofty prison sentences one faces when they have been charged, they may also be required to register as a sexually violent predator - if convicted of similar charges multiple times, according to at least one state court.
The viewership, creation, possession, and dissemination of child pornography is likewise prohibited under federal law, meaning you may also be subject to prosecution in federal district court. This may happen in addition to or in lieu of facing charges in Pennsylvania court.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
If you received child pornography-related charges in the state of Pennsylvania, it is critical that you immediately seek out an attorney to review your case. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped countless clients and he can help you. Call the Lento Law Firm today at (215) 535-5353.