Child pornography consists of visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct or sexually suggestive poses whether or not they are clothed. Child pornography is not presumptively protected by the First Amendment and is not governed by obscenity law. Child pornography is a felony under state and federal law and calls for a lengthy prison sentence as well as sex offender registration. Mere possession of child pornography is a felony offense that will result in a prison sentence upon conviction.
Downloading child pornography on your personal computer is tantamount to possessing it. Transporting child pornography across state lines is more serious than possessing it. In the federal system, transporting child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. When someone views child pornography on line, his computer retains the images in temporary files known as “cache.” In the federal system, this may or may not constitute a criminal offense depending on whether the government can prove that the defendant knew that the material was retained in temporary files. There is currently a bill pending before the Washington State Legislature to make the mere viewing of child pornography a felony offense.
There are a few defenses available to those charged with possessing or producing child pornography. For example one can claim that he or she harbored a reasonable good faith belief that the person depicted in the photograph wasn't a minor. Under Washington State law, the latter defense is one that the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence. The Government's efforts to arrest and prosecute persons suspected of downloading child pornography have grown increasingly sophisticated. If someone is accessing child porn websites, chances are that the Government knows about it.
There are few crimes more stigmatizing than those involving child pornography. Just as the children depicted in child pornography are its victims, so too are the families of those arrested and charged with this most serious crime. If you find yourself attracted to this type of material, think about how it can ruin your life and the lives of your loved ones. Get professional help before it's too late.