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What Are the Penalties for Child Pornography in California?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Nov 23, 2022

What determines your punishments if you're arrested and convicted of California Penal Code 311 PC child pornography in Los Angeles? This is a loaded question because it depends on who arrests you, and it also depends on who ends up prosecuting you. 

Child porn is illegal in California under Penal Code 311 PC, the statute used by prosecutors to file charges against someone.

What Are the Penalties for Child Pornography in California?

Put simply, it's a serious felony crime to transport, duplicate, distribute, print, advertise, or possess child pornography. It's also a crime to engage in the act of hiring or attempting to hire minors with the intent to have them make pornographic images.

Further, sharing child porn images in an online group is another illegal act under this law.  Distributing, producing, viewing, or downloading child porn is covered under Penal Code 311 PC subsections.

To be convicted requires the prosecution to prove that you knowingly possessed images depicting minors engaging in sexual acts and that you knew the images showed someone under 18.

In other words, regardless of the type of child porn allegations, it must be shown that you committed a child pornography-related offense knowingly, which is the critical element of the crime.  Let's review these laws further below.

What Are the California Child Porn Laws?

Individual subsections within Penal Code 311 PC define specific laws that are related to child pornography, such as the following:

  • Penal Code 311.1 PC, 311.2 PC defines the distribution of child porn, making it a crime to send, transport, produce, possess, or duplicate it with the intent to distribute it;
  • Penal Code 311.3PC defines sharing child pornography and makes it a crime to develop, duplicate knowingly, print, or exchange it;
  • Penal Code 311.4 PC defines the crime of knowingly hiring, employing, using, persuading, or coercing a minor to participate in the production of child pornography;
  • Penal Code 311.10 PC defines the crime of the advertisement of obscene child porn for sale or distribution;
  • Penal Code 311.11 PC defines the crime of knowingly possessing or controlling child porn produced using someone under 18.

Penal Code 311 PC says that child pornography under the law is any material, such as pictures, films, videos, negatives, or slides that depict sexual conduct or sexual activity by a person under the age of 18, is considered child porn.

The term “sexual conduct” in context refers to acts such as intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, and masturbation.

The federal statute 18 U.S.C. 2252prohibits the willful possession, distribution, and transportation of child pornography material.  The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 defines child porn as:

  • “any visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, whether it's made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means.”

In other words, this federal law makes it a crime to possess, receive, or distribute sexual images of children. If you do so willingly, you could be sentenced to up to 15 years in federal prison for each offense and be named on relevant sex offender registries.

A related federal crime is 18 U.S.C. 2251, sexual exploitation of children, which makes it a crime to persuade a minor to produce child pornography.

Does the Amount of Child Porn Images Matter?

Yes. The essential factors in possession of child pornography cases are the amount of child pornography the person has and the type of child pornography.

Does the Amount of Child Porn Images Matter?

The prosecutors will likely also look at the person's criminal record to determine if they've ever done anything like this before or have any sex-related offenses in their past in determining what approach they take with the case. 

The more images seized, be they photographs or videos, the more likely the federal government will pick the case up. 

This is usually a much worse scenario for criminal defendants because the feds are very serious about prosecuting these cases. Many of these federal judges are doling out very high sentences in federal child pornography cases

If you distributed anything – if you sent it to anyone –you put yourself in a position where you're looking at a 5-year mandatory minimum for distributing child pornography.

So, if you are going to be charged with a child pornography charge, you would much prefer that the state prosecute the case, which is determined by many factors. 

As noted, the main one is the number of images.  If the state prosecutes the case, you're in a much better position to argue that maybe you shouldn't go to prison because you don't have as many images; hopefully, you don't have a criminal record related to this type of behavior.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help

Lastly, and probably most important, they're going to be looking at whether you might do this again or you might go and try to do something to a child.  That's the biggest concern for prosecutors, police, and even judges in these cases.

California Child Pornography Defense Attorney

So, if you want the best, if you're facing possession or distribution of child pornography charge, you're facing lifetime registration, you're facing either state or federal prison, you need somebody like me who's been doing this now for 30 years. 

I started working for the District Attorney's office, then a superior court judge, working for people like you in the early 1990s to get the best possible result.

If everything is on the line and you need the best – if your whole world has been turned upside down – if your career is on the line, if your family is on the line, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you. We offer a free case consultation by phone or fill out the contact form.

How to Get the Best Result in a Child Pornography Prosecution?

If you or a loved one is being prosecuted for possessing or distributing child pornography, you want to get the best attorney to help defend you.

Some of the things that can be done in these types of cases if they've got the evidence against you are to have someone prepare a report that assesses whether or not you would be a recidivist and commit a crime like this or something similar in the future. 

That's one of the biggest things police, prosecutors, and judges look at in possession of child pornography cases.  They also look at whether or not the defendant was poised to try and meet up with a child because they perceive that is the next step in these types of cases. 

Review of the Evidence

So, first, we'll discuss whether you have a defense for the crime. Then, if we can prove that you can defend the crime, we will investigate it, file whatever motions make sense, and even sometimes take the case to trial if we can succeed.

If, on the other hand, we determine that if you perceived it ahead and fought the case and you would lose, then we will take an entirely different approach. This is because, in these cases, if you fight the prosecutors, they will punish you severely if they can get a conviction. 

So, you want to be very careful about handling these cases.  I've been taking these types of cases now for 30 years. 

I started off working for the district attorney's office to give me an idea of how they deal with these types of cases, and then a superior court judge as his research attorney, and finally, since the early 1990s, I've been defending people just like you for possession and distribution of child pornography, so I know the ins and outs on how to handle these cases.

Mitigation Package

First, we get that report if we are trying to resolve a case.  Then we would probably get what I would characterize as other mitigation – letters from family, friends, and people who know you are showing that you have good character and that whatever you are involved in is an aberration and will never happen again. 

It's also essential to get what's called a Static 99 report, which again assesses whether or not you would do something like this in the future again and whether or not you are a danger to children. 

That is the biggest issue the prosecutors are looking at in deciding how to handle your case.  They want to ensure they protect the public, specifically children.  So this is one of the issues we will have to grapple with if we want to get the best result in a child pornography case.

Another thing that will be examined is how many images you have – whether pictures or videos.  Obviously, the more you have, the more punishment you'll get, and the more likely it is that your case will be dealt with at the federal and state levels.

So, if you or a loved one is charged with possessing or distributing child pornography, pick up the phone and schedule an appointment with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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