Charges of child pornography carry severe consequences, both legally and socially. The state takes them very seriously.
Child pornography includes possessing, viewing, photographing, videotaping and distributing materials involving sexual acts or nudity of minor children and is a felony that may lead to prison time.
Is prison time unavoidable?
The maximum prison term for a charge of child pornography in Pennsylvania is 10 years, for second and subsequent offenses, given that the first offense ended in conviction. The accused must also register in the sex offender registry. However, prison time is not inevitable. There is the possibility of probation.
For example, a retired Air Force Brigadier General arrested in 2019 faced charges of child pornography. He pleaded guilty and received a penalty of five years of probation but no jail time.
What are potential defenses?
Officers may not violate the accused’s rights while performing searches for evidence of child pornography. Specifically, if they violate Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, proof they obtain while doing so may not be valid in court. There is also a distinction between intentional and accidental viewing of child pornography materials. If a person did not purposefully look at illegal content, courts may dismiss the charges (i.e., they accidentally downloaded a video without realizing what it was). Computer scientists may be able to find proof of this.
Child pornography is not a joke. It is not a harmless action. It is a serious offense with severe long-term consequences that can follow an individual for the rest of his or her life. However, there are potential defenses that may end in reduced sentences or dismissal of charges.