When Is Child Pornography a Federal Offense?

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
March 4, 2021

Pennsylvania identifies various activities linked to child pornography as criminal acts through its sexual abuse laws. Under Pennsylvania Statute Title 18 § 6312(d), photographing, filming, or videotaping a sexual act involving a child under the age of 18, whether the action is real or mimicked, is a second-degree felony. If convicted, this charge carries severe penalties that include up to a ten-year prison sentence and sex offender registration. Even if you are eventually found not guilty of the crime, your personal and professional reputation can be seriously damaged.

Child pornography images can place a person in the Pennsylvania legal system and result in federal charges by the United States government. If you suspect that you are under investigation for child pornography in Pennsylvania, you must immediately seek legal counsel. If you partner with Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C., we will fiercely defend your legal rights and good name while providing caring, full-service representation in and out of court.

What Constitutes Child Pornography under U.S. Federal Law?

Section 2256 of Title 18, U.S.C., defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor. That includes photos, videos, digital or computer-generated images that appear to be a minor, and images created, adapted, or modified to look like an identifiable minor. Undeveloped film, undeveloped videotape, and electronically stored data that can be converted into a visual image of child pornography are also considered illegal visual depictions under federal law.

Anyone charged at the federal level for child pornography potentially faces five years of imprisonment for possession of child pornography and eleven years for distribution and receipt.

When Does the Federal Government Get Involved in Child Pornography Crimes?

If you transfer child pornography across state lines, you could be charged with a federal offense. Federal prosecution is triggered when the prohibited images are transferred across state or national borders. Under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to control both interstate and foreign trading. That is interpreted by the Supreme Court to require that Congress regulate the paths of commerce, including:

  • Roads
  • Railways
  • Shipping lanes
  • Everything traveling on those routes

In other words, if you download a child pornography image on the internet in Pennsylvania and the image derived from a server in New York, you could be charged with a federal offense. Additionally, if you received pornographic images of children in the mail sent from California, you could face federal charges.

The federal law can apply even if the child pornography images never physically crossed state or national borders. If the devices or items used to store, take, or download the photo previously transferred through interstate or foreign trade, federal laws apply.

This indicates that the federal rule has an extensive reach and involves almost all cases of child pornography via the internet.

What Are Potential Defenses against Federal Child Pornography Charges?

If you face federal charges for child pornography, it is vital that you consult with an experienced child pornography defense lawyer to build a robust defense strategy. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, potential defenses in a federal child pornography case may include:

  • Entrapment: Did law enforcement officers pretend to be minors and seek out a sexually oriented conversation with a person not typically predisposed to search for child pornography?
  • No knowledge of contraband: Was your computer used by someone else to download images of child pornography without your knowledge or consent? Sophisticated computer forensics can discover this information.
  • Sexual addiction: Suppose you did access child pornography online; were you acting out of a sexual addiction that requires therapy?
  • No personal action taken: Was your password compromised by a data breach or hacker?

Contact Experienced Sex Crimes Defense Lawyers for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one faces criminal charges associated with child pornography at the federal level, it is essential that you speak with a skilled sex crimes defense lawyer immediately. The sooner you consult with our seasoned criminal defense lawyers, the sooner we can begin devising an effective defense strategy against federal child pornography charges.

At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C., we are dedicated to defending clients in Montgomery County and throughout Pennsylvania. Our attorneys possess over 270 cumulative years litigating a wide variety of complex cases, including federally charged sex crimes and child pornography. You can be confident our lawyers will fight to achieve the most favorable outcome in your case. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer, complete a contact form or call  215-822-7575.

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
March 4, 2021
Established in 1952 by Irwin S. Rubin, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. boasts over 65 years of experience serving clients throughout Pennsylvania. Renowned for its commitment to ethical representation, the firm has garnered prestigious accolades, including being named the "Best Law Firm" for its outstanding legal defense work by U.S. News & World Report. Their team of seasoned attorneys, recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars, brings unparalleled expertise to a wide range of legal matters, ensuring exceptional representation for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.