Pennsylvania offers many fine college and university experiences at such premier state and private schools as Penn State, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Drexel, LaSalle, and Villanova. Pennsylvania college and university students have great liberty to enjoy those experiences both inside and outside the classroom. Yet liberties have limits. And one of the clearest limits that Pennsylvania colleges and universities impose is against child pornography crimes and recording sexual acts without consent. Colleges and universities educate students not just in academic subjects but also in appropriate personal and social behavior. Schools cannot simply turn a blind eye to serious criminal activity among students. Pennsylvania colleges and universities will instead discipline students right up to suspension and expulsion for certain serious criminal activities, including violating Pennsylvania child pornography and recording consent laws.
Criminal and School Child Pornography Charges
Public prosecutors can charge Pennsylvania college and university students with several child pornography crimes and other sexual offenses. Prosecutors lodge those charges in the locale's criminal courts. The student's college or university generally has nothing directly to do with the charges, which are instead for the prosecutor to determine and pursue. But the student's college or university may conduct its own proceeding on campus to discipline the student over child pornography, whether prosecutors charge the pornography crime or not. And school officials may turn over campus information to local prosecutors for prosecutors to pursue child pornography and related charges. Penn State University, for example, maintains a Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Inappropriate Conduct Policy that expressly prohibits “possessing, producing, or distributing child pornography” and “non-consensual recording, disseminating, or copying of images, photography, video, or audio recording of sexual activity or nudity conducted in a private space.” Penn State's Inappropriate Conduct Policy warns that sanctions may include warning, probation, suspension, expulsion, and other administrative penalties like housing loss, loss of other privileges, and other educational, reflective, and restorative outcomes. Other Pennsylvania colleges and universities maintain similar policies. Child pornography and recording without consent are thus concerns for both public prosecutors and your school's own officials. The bottom line is that whether you face criminal charges or not, child pornography and non-consensual recording could get you kicked out of school. Retain Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team if your school has accused you of child pornography or non-consensual recording misconduct.
Pennsylvania Child Pornography Crimes
You may wonder what constitutes child pornography in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania colleges and universities may not clearly define child pornography, even though they routinely prohibit it. Instead, they tend to leave the definition of the crime to other laws. Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 6312 defines the state's child pornography crimes, to which Pennsylvania college and university disciplinary officials would likely refer for defining their own child pornography disciplinary charges.
Causing or Permitting Child Pornography
The first child pornography crime under Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 6312(b)(1) is to cause or knowingly permit a child under age eighteen to engage in a prohibited sexual act or simulation of that act when the person knows, has reason to know, or intends the recording of that act. Criminal Code Section 6312(g) defines the prohibited sexual acts to include masturbation, sadism, masochism, bestiality, fellatio, cunnilingus, and lewdly exhibiting nudity for sexual stimulation or gratification. Section 6312 treats first-time offenses as third-degree felonies, while subsequent offenses rise to second-degree.
Recording Child Pornography
While causing or permitting child pornography is one Pennsylvania crime, actually recording child pornography is a second, more serious offense. Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 6312(b)(2) prohibits knowingly photographing, videotaping, or depicting on computer or films a child under the age of eighteen engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such act. The prohibited sexual acts are those defined in Criminal Code Section 6312(g). This recording crime is a second-degree felony.
Disseminating Child Pornography
Disseminating child pornography is also a Pennsylvania crime. Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 6312(c) prohibits knowingly selling, distributing, delivering, disseminating, transferring, displaying, or exhibiting to others, or possessing for the purpose of doing so, material depicting a child under age eighteen engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such act. Once again, the prohibited sexual acts are those defined in Criminal Code Section 6312(g). The disseminating crime is a third-degree felony on a first offense, rising to a second-degree felony on subsequent offenses.
Viewing or Possessing Child Pornography
Finally, viewing or possessing child pornography is also a Pennsylvania crime. Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 6312(d) prohibits intentionally viewing or knowingly possessing or controlling material depicting a child under the age of eighteen engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act. Section 6312(d) lists several formats in which the offender may view or possess the child pornography, including book, magazine, pamphlet, slide, photograph, film, videotape, or computer depiction but includes the catch-all “other material” so that the format does not matter to the crime. The viewing or possessing crime is a third-degree felony on a first offense, rising to a second-degree felony on subsequent offenses.
Pennsylvania Non-Consensual Recording Crime
In addition to child pornography, Pennsylvania law also criminalizes the non-consensual recording of nudity or sexual acts. Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 3131 prohibits “unlawful dissemination of [an] intimate image if, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm a current or former sexual or intimate partner, the person disseminates a visual depiction of the current or former sexual or intimate partner in a state of nudity or engaged in sexual conduct.” As in the case of child pornography, Pennsylvania colleges and universities routinely prohibit and discipline the non-consensual recording of nudity or sexual acts. Villanova University's Sexual Misconduct Policy is an example, authorizing disciplinary charges for “creating a picture(s), movie(s), webcam, tape recording(s), graphic written narrative(s), or other means of memorializing sexual behavior or a state of undress of another person without the other's knowledge and consent.” Child pornography is one offense, while non-consensual recording is another. Pennsylvania colleges and universities discipline for either or both acts.
Related State and Federal Pornography Laws
The above child pornography laws are not the only state and federal laws under which prosecutors may charge crimes involving children and sexually explicit materials. Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 5903 prohibits the display, production, or distribution of obscene materials, whether they involve children or not. According to that statute and federal constitutional law, materials are obscene if the average person applying community standards would find the materials as a whole appealing to the prurient interest, the materials depict the proscribed sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and the materials as a whole lack serious literary, artistic, political, educational, or scientific value. Federal laws also criminalize child pornography, including 18 USC Section 2251 on sexual exploitation of children, 18 USC Section 2251A on selling or buying children, 18 USC Section 2252 on materials involving the sexual exploitation of children, 18 USC Section 2252A on possessing child pornography, and 18 USC Section 2260 on producing child pornography for importation.
Detecting Child Pornography on Pennsylvania Campuses
Public colleges and universities are arms of government, having the police powers and responsibilities of government. Private colleges and universities, while not government arms, exercise similar powers over their private campuses. Pennsylvania law allows colleges and universities to retain and deploy campus police officers to detect and prevent campus crime, including child pornography and non-consensual recording of nudity or sexual acts. For example, the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State University, and Temple University all maintain campus police departments. If a student, instructor, staff member, or guest of your college or university observes or suspects your involvement with child pornography or non-consensual recording and reports it to school officials, those officials are likely to involve campus police in the investigation of disciplinary charges. Even if campus police do not participate, your school's disciplinary officials may, on their own, investigate, charge, and discipline for child pornography on campus.
Child Pornography Sanctions and Collateral Consequences
Plainly, child pornography is a very serious criminal matter, exposing the Pennsylvania college or university student not only to school suspension or expulsion but also criminal conviction, lengthy prison sentence, and potential sex offender registration. Pennsylvania punishes third-degree felonies with up to five years in prison for a first offense and second-degree felonies with up to ten years in prison. Criminal convictions and school discipline can carry serious collateral consequences causing lost jobs, careers, licenses, certifications, rights, privileges, and relationships. Don't underestimate the impact of those consequences. If you face criminal charges and school disciplinary charges at your Pennsylvania college or university for child pornography or non-consensual recording of nudity or sexual acts, retain student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento now.
Defending Child Pornography Criminal Charges
A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. If prosecutors charge you in criminal court with child pornography or non-consensual recording of nudity or sexual acts, you may be able to defend and defeat the charges, leaving no criminal record to affect your future. Pennsylvania law recognizes several exceptions and defenses to child pornography charges. Premier Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento can strategically invoke the following criminal court procedures to give you the best chance to defeat the charges:
- ensure your prompt release without restrictive bond terms at arraignment;
- expose holes in the prosecution's case at the preliminary examination;
- use discovery to get the prosecution's exonerating and mitigating evidence;
- advocate for the suppression of incriminating evidence and dismissal of the charges at pretrial conferences and in pretrial motions asserting your constitutional rights;
- help you evaluate Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) as a way to avoid prosecution and conviction;
- plea bargain for voluntary dismissal or charge reduction;
- advocate at trial, including the opening statement, direct and cross-examination of witnesses, trial motions, and closing argument; and
- move for post-trial relief and appeal any conviction based on legal errors or the lack of evidence.
Defending School Child Pornography Disciplinary Charges
Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento can also help you strategically invoke your school's disciplinary procedures to help you defend and defeat school charges, whether you face related criminal charges or not. Pennsylvania colleges and universities maintain their own school disciplinary procedures to address child pornography, non-consensual recording, and other disciplinary charges. Drexel University's Student Code of Conduct and Temple University's Student Policies and Procedures are examples. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team can provide skilled, experienced, and effective representation by taking all of the following steps to give you the best chance of defeating child pornography or non-consensual recording disciplinary charges:
- evaluate and answer your school's complaint, raising defenses to the charges;
- discover your school's evidence while helping you identify and acquire other exonerating and mitigating evidence;
- attending or preparing you to attend informal resolution conferences for early dismissal of all charges;
- correcting and supplementing the school's investigation report;
- attending formal hearings to present and examine witnesses as school rules permit;
- taking appeals to reverse adverse decisions based on errors and irregularities in the proceedings; and
- negotiating alternative special relief through school oversight channels if you have already exhausted all formal procedures.
Pennsylvania Student and Criminal Defense Attorney
Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento offers you the great advantage of having a single attorney to both defend Pennsylvania criminal charges and defend school disciplinary charges relating to child pornography or non-consensual recording. Attorney Lento has successfully defended hundreds of students nationwide on all kinds of disciplinary charges while also having substantial experience defending charges in Pennsylvania's criminal courts. When you retain attorney Lento, you get a premier attorney who has both the criminal defense skills and student discipline defense experience you need for the best chance to save your Pennsylvania college or university education against child pornography or non-consensual recording charges. Contact attorney Lento now at 888.535.3686 or go online.