In Maine child pornography is strictly prohibited a person found guilty of such conduct will be subject to severe penalties. In addition, perpetrators will generally be required to be registered as sex offenders in perpetuity. similarly, caregivers and other mandated reporters may be found liable for failing to report or prevent the abuse of children.
Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
The sanctions for child pornography related criminal conduct in Maine are contained in Section 282 of the Maine Criminal Code, denoted “Sexual exploitation of a minor.”
Section 282 provides that anyone who knowingly induces a person under age 16 to engage in sexually suggestive acts for the purpose of creating (or knowingly allowing someone else to create) child pornography is guilty of a Class B crime with a minimum sentence of 5 years. However, it is not a violation of the statute in instances where there is no threat involved, the other person is 14 or 15 and alleged perpetrator is less than five years older than the other person. Parents or legal guardians are never excused regardless of the age of the child and their relative age.
If the accused has a prior record for a related offense, then the crime is elevated to a Class A crime, which is the most serious class of crime in Maine. In such cases, the mandatory minimum is raised to 10 years with the possibility of up to a 30 year sentence. This crime is also elevated to a Class A offense if the child is under 12 years old.
Dissemination of Sexually Explicit Materials
Possession and dissemination of child pornography is covered Section 283 of the Maine Criminal Code, denominated “Dissemination of Sexually Explicit Materials.”
A person who disseminates child pornography or possesses child pornography with intent to share such material with other people may be charged with a Class C crime under this section. Child pornography is defined as, “any book, magazine, newspaper, print, negative, slide, motion picture, videotape, computer data file or other mechanically, electronically or chemically reproduced visual image or material that depicts any person who has not yet attained 16 years of age, who the person knows or has reason to know is a person under 16 years of age, engaged in sexually explicit conduct.”
The definition of child pornography extremely expansive to ensure that all forms of child pornography including digital media are prohibited. Ignorance of a child’s age is no defense, provided the accused reasonably should have known that the other person is under 16 years of age. Furthermore, pursuant to subsection 2 of this provision, a person who has 10 or more copies of child pornography in their possession is presumed to have intent to distribute. Thus someone who possesses a substantial amount of child pornography in any format may be charged under this statute, even if there is no direct evidence that he or she actually shared it with another person, or knew that the subjects were underage.
As with Section 282, this section does not apply in some cases to individuals who are within five years of age of the 14 or 15 year old subjects pictured in the alleged elicit material. Also, this crime is elevated to Class B offense for repeat offenders. If the persons featured in the pornography are under the age of 12, then the offense becomes a Class B crime for a first offense and a Class A offense for repeat offenders.
In Maine as elsewhere, certain individuals are required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect which of course includes sexual abuse. These mandated reporting requirements are contained in Section 4011-A of Title 22, the Maine Health and Welfare code.
Mandated reporters include most licensed caregivers including medical professionals, teachers, first responders, and religious workers. If any of these individuals detect suspected abuse while acting in their professional capacity, they must immediately report their suspicions to the local district attorney’s office. Subsection 8 requires mandated reporters to notify officials if they suspect that a child is not living with that child’s legal family, as may be the case with child pornography. In addition to reporting suspected abuse, mandated reporters must receive relevant training every four years. Failure to comply with any aspect of reporting can lead to a $500 civil fine.
Child and Family Services (OCFS)
Once child abuse is reported, OCFS (Office of Child and Family Services) is the department charged with responsibility to intervene on behalf of the effected child. Thus in the case of victims of child pornography, OCFS will intervene to ensure that the victims are protected from such abusers and to ensure the their safety. This may include taking victims into their custody or, where appropriate, working with legal guardians to ensure that abused children will receive the help they need and be placed in a safe environment. Depending on the particular circumstances, OCFS must initially find the accusations to be substantiated. However, even when substantiated, if legal guardians are shown to have had no reasonable knowledge of the abuse, they may be allowed to maintain custody of their child. On the other hand, if OCFS determines that legal guardians are at fault or are unable to ensure a child’s safety, they are required to separate the child from their family.
In most cases, a criminal conviction for creating or knowingly disseminating child pornography will subject an individual to up to lifetime registration as a sex offender. The rules for sex offender registration are contained in the Sex Offender Registration Act , Title 34-A of the Maine Revised Statutes.
These rules require courts to order registration once an individual has been convicted of such crimes, usually after serving any jail time. The convicted person then has the responsibility to comply to register with the Maine Sex Offender Registry.
In addition, individuals moving to the state of Maine who were convicted of comparable crimes in their former state of residence may have to register in Maine. This includes individuals who were required to register their former state of residence as well as individuals who were not required to register in their home state but are under Maine law.
For more information about Maine legal matters, contact the Law Office of Richard S. Berne today.