Over the last 2 decades, there has been a sharp increase in the number of criminal child pornography cases in Pennsylvania federal courts. In the late 1990s, there were roughly a few dozen cases each year. By 2010, that number increased to almost 2,000 cases each year.
What is Child Pornography Under Federal Law?
Under federal law, it is illegal to produce, sell, distribute, receive or possess an image depicting child pornography which uses or affects any means of interstate or foreign commerce. This includes use of a computer. See Title 18 United States Code Sections 2251, 2252 and 2252A.
Child pornography is generally defined as a visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a person under the age of 18. This includes pictures, films, videos, and digital or computer generated images and depictions of an actual minor, as well as undeveloped pictures, films or videos. A picture depicting a naked child could constitute child pornography. In addition, state laws regarding the age of consent for sexual activity are immaterial. Under federal law, it is illegal to produce, sell, distribute, receive or possess an image depicting sexually suggestive activity involving a minor.
Prison Terms in Federal Child Pornography Cases
First Time Offenders
Many individuals who are convicted of federal child pornography crimes are first time offenders from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds and often include:
- working professionals,
- educators (principals, teachers, etc.),
- medical professionals, and
- law enforcement officers.
If convicted of child pornography offenses, such individuals face significant penalties/fines which have been amended and increased over the last 15 years.
One of the most important amendments occurred in 2003 when Congress drastically increased prison sentences for federal child pornography convictions. The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003 amended many criminal child pornography statutes, including 18 United States Code Section 2252A.
Prior to the 2003 amendments, a first time offense for the crime of distributing or selling child pornography under Section 2252A carried a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, without a mandatory minimum sentence. After the 2003 amendments, a first time offense for the same crime now carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison.
Prior to the 2003 amendments, a first time offense for the crime of possessing child pornography under Section 2252A carried a maximum sentence of 5 years; there was no mandatory minimum sentence. The 2003 amendments increased the maximum sentence to 10 years.
For more information, access the firm’s legal articles related to criminal child pornography cases in Pennsylvania.
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If you believe that you are under investigation, have been subpoenaed before a grand jury or arrested and charged with a crime, contact us for a confidential consultation by phone at (215) 563-9800 or email at info@NeffSedacca.com.