Federal and Maine Child Pornography Laws
Child pornography is serious offense under both state and federal law. Thus a person involved in such activity may be subject to either federal charges or state charges depending on whether the matter is investigated by federal or state law enforcement officials. Both federal and state law prohibit the creation, distribution, reception, possession, and importation of child pornography. If convicted of any of these crimes, the defendant faces substantial imprisonment and fines.
Federal Laws on Child Pornography
There are several federal laws that prohibit child pornography and provide for serious penalties including the following:
● 18 U.S.C. § 2251 – This section criminalizes the sexual exploitation of children in connection with the production of child pornography. 18 U.S.C. § 2251A involves the sale, transfer or purchase of children for the purpose of creating child pornography. ● 18 U.S.C. § 2252 & 18 U.S.C. § 2252A – This section concerns of all activities related to child pornography materials (possession, distribution, and receipt of materials). Section 2252A refers to the receipt or distribution of child pornographic materials. ● 18 U.S.C. § 2256 – This section contains the definitions of child pornography. ● 18 U.S.C. § 2260 – This section criminalizes the production of sexually explicit images or videos of a minor to be imported into the U.S.
Child pornography is not protected by the First Amendment. Such materials include photographs, videos, or digitally generated images that are not distinguishable from an actual minor. The images can also be adapted, created, or edited to appear to depict a minor child. Even if film is undeveloped or data is simply electronically stored without distribution, possession of such materials is classified may be prosecuted under child pornography statutes.
A person may be charged with a federal crime if the child pornography offense occurred in foreign or interstate commerce. For example, if a common carrier like UPS or the U.S. Postal Service is used to transport pornographic photos of children across state or international borders federal jurisdiction applies. Federal jurisdiction almost is always applicable when the internet is used to view or transmit child pornography.
If convicted of child pornography at the federal level, the minimum prison sentence may be as high as 15 to 30 years in addition to fines. A first-time offender may be sentenced to 5 to 20 years in prison. Repeat or the most serious offenses may result in life imprisonment.
Maine Child Pornography Laws
Maine Revised Statute section 282 , prohibits persuading or enticing a minor (other than a spouse) to engage in sexual conduct for the purpose of creating pornographic material. It also applies to legal guardians or parents that intentionally allow a child to engage in sexually explicit conduct that they know will be photographed. This is a Class B crime that is increased to a Class A crime if the images depict a minor under 12 years of age. Maine Revised Statute section 283 addresses the distribution of child pornography, which is a Class C crime. It prohibits the knowingly possession child pornography with the intent to distribute and actual distribution of such the materials. Intent may be inferred by the possession of 10 or more copies of pornographic images depicting children. If there is a prior child pornography conviction, it is a Class B crime. It’s a Class A crime if the images depict a minor under 12 years of age. Maine Revised Statute section 284 involves the intentional transporting, purchasing, exhibiting, possessing or accessing of child pornography involving a child or children under 16 years of age. This is a Class D crime, which is increased to a Class C crime if there have been prior convictions or if the depicted child is under 12 years of age.
In addition to fines and prison time, a person must register as a sex offender for a minimum of 10 years and for life for a conviction of several of these statutes.
Defending Child Pornography Charges
As detailed above, any accusation involving child pornography implicates statutes that provide for substantial punishment including registering as a sex offender for up to life. Many such cases are the result of government investigators surveilling the exchange of alleged child pornography on peer to peer networks that are readily available for downloading. Once investigators observe child pornography on a computer equipped with such software, an investigation is instigated by the execution of a search warrant permitting law enforcement to seize a person’s computer or similar device for forensic examination by a government expert. Among the defenses to such charges is that the images discovered on a person’s computer do not meet the definition of child pornography and are therefore not illegal. Another potential defense to a child pornography charge is demonstrating that the images were not knowingly possessed or distributed. Finally, if the case involves the execution of a search warrant, an accused may move to suppress the evidence due to a lack of probable cause to search and seize such material. In all cases it is critical to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer like Richard S. Berne to provide the a vigorous defense.