Facing child pornography charges in California can attract detrimental consequences for accused persons, especially if the judge or jury finds them guilty. The offense also attracts a lot of prejudice and stigma against the accused person, meaning that your life may become significantly more challenging after your arrest. Therefore, you want to work with a criminal defense attorney to help you avoid conviction orders and return to your everyday life. With Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, you will receive excellent criminal defense services for your case. Our team has a wealth of experience handling sex crime cases, making us one of your best options in fighting your charges. 

Understanding What a Child Pornography Offense Entail

Learning of the subject matter surrounding child pornography charges is essential, as it helps you understand the exact nature of the crime. Based on this, you can then prepare your defenses accordingly, as you will have known the offenses you will be answerable to. Typically, a criminal defense attorney will elaborate on the charges and expectations that should follow in your case to prepare you for trial.

The starting point is the primary legal provision prohibiting child pornography in California. This provision is available under section 311 of the California Penal Code, which prohibits offensive actions related to child pornography. These include possession, transportation, duplication, or sale of child pornography. While this provision lists the general scope of child pornography offenses, various subsections are available to specify the prohibitions for each category of unlawful actions. 

Prohibitions Under Sections 311.1 and 311.2 of the Penal Code

Sections 311.1 and 311.2 of the Penal Code prohibit any person from undertaking any actions that would progress the distribution of child pornography. These actions may include transporting the pornographic material from one place to another to deliver it to a third-party recipient. Further, possessing the child pornography yourself also attracts a charge under these sections, as law enforcement officers can rightfully assume you intended to distribute or watch the child pornography.

Furthermore, it is unlawful to make duplicates of child pornography under sections 311.1 and 311.2, meaning that any copies of the pornographic material linked to you can attract a charge. Similarly, you will be answerable for any production you undertook, intending to distribute the child pornography material. 

Prohibitions Under Section 311.3 of the Penal Code

Moreover, section 311.3 focuses on developing and exchanging child pornography material and prohibits anyone from making copies, printing, or developing child pornography. Developing may include taking photographs, shooting videos, or writing material that qualifies as pornographic. 

Prohibitions Under Section 311.4 of the Penal Code

Further, under section 311.4 PC, the law specifies the specific actions amounting to child pornography production and prohibits them. The list of actions amounting to offenses includes forcing a minor to participate in sexual activity to develop pornographic material. 

On top of this, employing or hiring a minor for the same purpose is unlawful and will also attract legal repercussions for the guilty parties involved. These actions are considered if you persuaded or coerced the minor to participate or used false representations to gain their consent. 

Elements of Child Pornography Charges

Having understood the various legal provisions that prohibit child pornography-related activities, it is also essential for you to understand the elements of crime relevant to the offense. The information is useful because it helps you learn the possible argument points that the prosecutor is likely to use. 

This is because all criminal cases impose the burden of proof on the prosecutor. As a result, they are responsible for proving that you committed an offense by providing evidence of your participation in each crime. Failure to do so limits their chances of success in proving your guilt. You have a better chance of receiving a sentence reduction or an acquittal. 

The following elements of the crime are relevant to child pornography charges:

You Handled Child Pornography Material

Firstly, the prosecutor must prove the actual criminal action attracting a charge by demonstrating what you did. Thus, they should prove that you handled child pornography by possessing, selling, duplicating, printing, exchanging, transporting, or developing it. Noteworthy, the prosecutor will refer to the relevant section 311 provision to your case, depending on the case circumstances. 

You need to understand the definitions of each term in your case context to help you determine whether you faced fair accusations. Hence, child pornography encompasses all material that may depict or store information that shows underaged sexual activity. Further, the term material, in this case, refers to any tangible item used to store or display child pornography. 

This may include flash disks, compact disks, photographs, video footage, electronics with child pornography stored in them, magazines, and books or paper with child pornography content written in them. In court, you can expect the prosecutor to present the exact type of material you possessed or distributed to strengthen their case. Hence, your criminal defense attorney should be ready to confirm that the material aligns with the facts. 

Moreover, witnesses may also be present to testify about your actions in handling child pornography. These may include any onlookers present when you duplicated, sold, exchanged, or developed child pornography. Some may also have been in a store where child pornography was illegally available for sale. On top of this, surveillance footage that shows you handling child pornography will also be helpful to the prosecutor’s case so that they may include it in their evidential sources. 

You Were Aware of the Type of Material You Were Handling

Secondly, the prosecutor should show that you knew about the nature of the material you handled. This is important in establishing criminal liability because the element portrays your intention to break the law despite being aware of your actions. As a result, the prosecutor will focus on establishing this element based on several factors to ensure their case prevails. 

Typically, proving that an accused person was aware that they were handling child pornography requires an in-depth look into their actions and patterns. This is because they are unlikely to disclose that they are handling child pornography for fear of facing arrests or reports to the police. Due to this, the prosecution team is likely to rely on circumstantial evidence.

Although circumstantial evidence is acceptable in court, it is less compelling than direct sources of proof like photographs or exhibits. This is because circumstantial evidence may require the prosecutor to make a few presumptions, making it unlikely to uncover the actual events. Nonetheless, the judge will accept the prosecutor’s presentation, provided it follows the legal guidelines on upholding a fair trial.

Examples of circumstantial evidence include your behavior pattern as you handled child pornography. For example, if you tried to hide the material, the prosecutor can rely on this fact to demonstrate that you knew of the type of content you were handling. Hiding the material includes branding the child pornography under a different name, installing passwords to the files containing it, or physically hiding it from direct access. 

You should note that each case presents a different set of circumstances. As a result, the prosecutor’s strategy of relying on circumstantial evidence may shift depending on the available evidentiary sources. Your criminal defense lawyer should help uncover any possible loopholes to reduce the prosecutor's chances of blindsiding you. 

The Material In Question was of an Obscene Nature

Lastly, child pornography offenses are admissible for criminal trial if they are obscene. This eliminates criminal liability for medical, scientific, or educational purposes. Hence, the prosecution team should show that the content you handled was obscene and offensive to warrant any judgment against you.

Usually, obscene material will include depictions of sexual activity in offensive ways. The term sexual conduct includes intercourse, masturbation, oral sex, and anal penetration. Although opinions on offensive content can be subjective, the next test on whether child pornography is obscene is whether a reasonable person can condone the content. Typically, the material would be acceptable if it provided any value for society, including scientific, medical, political, or artistic. If not, the prosecutor will have shown that the material in question is obscene and should attract child pornography penalties. 

Defenses for Child Pornography Charges

As an accused person, you have the chance to defend yourself after the prosecution concludes its case. This is in line with helping you obtain a fair legal trial process, as required under the constitution. Since your defenses play an essential role in countering the accusations against you, you want to give your best effort in researching and developing them. Therefore, an experienced criminal defense attorney is the best partner to help you establish a solid case. 

Some defenses to apply to your case include:

You Were Unaware of the Content You Were Handling

Sometimes, parties may face accusations even when they are unaware of the kind of content they are handling. This is common if you worked as a transporter for child pornography, as you may have been an employee unaware of the content in transit. Thus, you can present the defense in your favor, as long as you provide sufficient proof of your lack of knowledge. 

Your criminal defense attorney can rely on the type of contract you had at work, showing that your duties were limited to transportation. Subsequently, you would not have known what you handled. 

Another example would be when a third party used you as the decoy to handle child pornography, as they sought to avoid legal liability. Similar to the first example, you can provide sufficient evidence to show that you were oblivious to the content in question and should not face the criminal penalties. 

The Material was Intended for a Lawful Purpose

Further, you may argue that the content in question was useful for legal purposes. Since material depicting minors engaging in sexual activity may be useful in scientific, medical, or educational instances, this will be your basis. However, by supporting your position, you should ensure that your justification is acceptable in court.

For example, if you are a researcher, you want to provide your credentials and details on the study or report you intended to produce through the material. In doing so, you will have built your credibility and increased your chances of a favorable outcome.

You Did Not Handle any Child Pornography

Alternatively, you can deny handling child pornography entirely, meaning you should be ready to fault the investigation officers and prosecutor’s case. Denying participation in the criminal activity requires you to have a strong case, as you will have challenged all elements of the crime. 

This calls for adequate preparation, including sourcing relevant evidential sources to help demonstrate your non-involvement in the child pornography accusations. Notably, this defense is useful mostly when you strongly believe there was a mistake of fact in your arrest and charging.

 For example, if you carried material that the arresting officers perceived as child pornography, you want to ensure your evidence counters their belief. You can argue that the content is technically not child pornography or that the entire arrest and charging were unlawful.

You Faced Entrapment in Your Case

Entrapment by police officers is also a useful defense, particularly where the events resulted in your arrest and detention. Entrapment entails officers introducing circumstances that lure you into committing the offense they suspect you of doing. 

For example, you may not have had child pornography in your possession when you met two undercover police officers. They then proceeded to sell you child pornography material and lured you into agreeing to the purchase, even though you had not intended to. Consequently, you will face arrest for committing a child pornography-related offense through entrapment. 

While the law enforcement officers may argue that they were acting on a report or suspicion, they will have induced you to commit the crime. Thus, their actions should not amount to a natural progression into a crime, making it a solid defense for use. 

Despite this, you should be careful when relying on this defense because the prosecutor will have thoroughly assessed any conversations, footage, and information on your body language before the entrapment. Therefore, they may still make a case against you during cross-examination if they can prove that you were willing to break the law.

Your Case Involves Mistaken Identity

Mistaken identity as a defense can also help you avoid conviction fully if successful, as it removes you from the case facts completely. This defense applies when you are genuinely under investigation and trial under a wrong identity. Although mistaken identities are uncommon due to the due diligence and investigations by officers, some cases may still involve pressing charges against the wrong party.

If you strongly believe in facing a case of mistaken identity, you will need to present evidence to support your claims. For example, if you were unaware of any intention to distribute child pornography by handling, duplicating, or even producing it, you want to present proof of alternative occupations that contradict the prosecutor’s case. With sufficient evidence and a compelling case build-up, your criminal defense attorney can help you convince the judge or jury of your innocence to your benefit. 

There Was an Unlawful Search and Seizure

Lastly, you can also present complaints of an unlawful search and seizure as a defense for the accusations you face. Usually, investigating officers should have a search warrant before entering your premises to search for illegal material. The document is only available after the officers request it from a judge. Since the process involves an extra step, the officers assigned to your case may skip it altogether, resulting in the illegal search and seizure.

Thus, your defense will be acceptable if you can prove that the arresting officers conducted a search without the required document or if they had the search warrant, it was outdated or invalid. To do so, your criminal defense lawyer can request duplicates of the warrants and study them to determine their validity. 

Penalties for Child Pornography Charges

If the judge or jury sides with the prosecutor, they will find you guilty of the child pornography charges against you. Consequently, you will face the penalties assigned to guilty offenders during the sentencing hearing. 

Child pornography charges fall under the wobbler crime category, meaning that the prosecutor may charge you with a felony or misdemeanor. The factors contributing to a specific charge include the severity of your case. For example, if you harmed any children in making the child pornography, you are more likely to face a felony charge, which is the more serious of the two. Additional considerations will inform the prosecutor of the most appropriate charge to issue. 

The judge will then issue a sentence based on the charge you faced. You may face up to one year in county jail as a misdemeanor or a fine penalty ranging between $1000 to $2500.  On the other hand, a felony penalty may result in a sentence of up to three years in state prison. 

Additionally, deportation orders may be issued to guilty offenders who were non-citizens. Thus, they will need to exit the country and may face denial of entry in future attempts to return. This can be detrimental for persons who may have established themselves in the country, as they risk losing their career, educational and social progress. 

Moreover, you will be mandated to register as a sex offender after the jury or judge finds you guilty. This requirement aims to protect the general society by informing them of your criminal past. Obtaining a job or reintegrating into society may be more challenging after your sex offender registration, on top of the sentence you serve.

Previous gun owners also lose their gun rights after conviction, as the state aims to promote peace and security. The general protocol also prohibits anyone with a criminal record from retaining their gun, so your loss of rights applies as an available procedure. 

Related Offenses

Several offenses also have similar elements of the crime to child pornography, and you may face common charges in some cases. Thus, having additional knowledge of these crimes may be beneficial. They include:

  • Statutory Rape

Under section 261.5 of the Penal Code, statutory rape entails sexual intercourse with a person under eighteen. It is immaterial whether the person gave consent or whether you genuinely believed to have had their permission. The offense operates on a primary technicality; the minor’s age when you had sexual intercourse with them.

  • Conducting Lewd Acts With a Minor

Committing lewd acts with a minor is a criminal offense under section 288 of the Penal Code. The crime is chargeable to anyone who commits inappropriate sexual acts with a minor, including exposing their private parts, making the minor touch their sexual organs, or brushing themselves against the minor for sexual gratification, among other actions. 

  • Producing or Distributing Revenge Pornography

Releasing revenge pornography entails exposing a person’s naked images or video footage without consent after failing to comply with your demands. These demands may include remaining in a relationship with you, sending money to you, or any other act to benefit you. Most accused persons will have the victim’s footage and use it to blackmail them. The offense is punishable under Section 647j4 of the California Penal Code.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

When you or a loved one faces arrest for charges related to child pornography, you may have difficulty handling the situation. This is because of the harmful exposure and the potential criminal punishments you face if the judge or jury finds you guilty. Hence, defending yourself in court is crucial to helping you avoid conviction or receive a lighter sentence than expected. 

Working with a criminal defense lawyer is an excellent way to start your criminal defense process, as they are well-experienced in the field. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we dedicate our services to helping clients facing child pornography charges face a fair trial. Moreover, we are happy to represent you in court by preparing and presenting your defenses before the judge or jury. If you or a loved one requires criminal defense services, contact us today at 619-877-6894.