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An overview of child pornography charges in Pennsylvania

In today’s computer age, pictures, videos and other information on people’s electronic devices is easily accessible. If images that are of a sexually explicit nature, which involve children, are obtained from your computer or phone, you could face child pornography charges. Such allegations often have a devastating impact on those who they are made against, as well as their families. In order to protect your rights and your future, it behooves you to understand what constitutes child pornography in the state of Pennsylvania.

Many believe that child pornography applies only to those who photograph or videotape children under the age of 18-years-old engaging in, or simulating engagement in, prohibited sexual acts. However, this is not the case. Under Pennsylvania state law, you may be charged with child pornography if you intentionally view or possess materials that depict minors participating in such activities. This includes looking at or owning computer depictions, books, magazines, photographs, videotapes or films, pamphlets, slides or other such materials.

The law does not provide leeway based on mistaken age. This is the case whether the child misrepresented his or her age, or if you believe him or her to be over 18-years-old. The exact age of a child depicted in explicit images or videos does not have to be known. Rather, Pennsylvania state law stipulates that expert testimony, such as from a doctor, is enough to establish a child’s age.

There are some exceptions to the law. Materials that are viewed, possessed or presented for governmental, judicial, educational or scientific purposes do not constitute child pornography for the purposes of criminal charges. Additionally, the law typically does not apply to materials depicting minors alone in a state of nudity, which they take themselves.

Depending on the circumstances, child pornography may be charged as a felony of the third degree, or as a second-degree felony. You may face up to seven years in prison if you are convicted of third-degree child pornography. The maximum sentence for a conviction of second-degree felony is 10 years.

For more information about sex crimes in Pennsylvania, please visit our child pornography page.

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