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Is Lolicon Illegal in California?

In California, there are no specific laws prohibiting lolicon that depict minors under 18 engaging in sexual activity. However, there are laws prohibiting the possession of child pornography.

Loli is a Japanese manga or anime that is sexually explicit, involving underage cartoon characters engaged in sexual-related plots. Loli depicting underage girls is called lolicon.

In Japanese popular culture, lolicon is a genre of fictional media that focuses on young-looking girl characters in a sexually suggestive or erotic manner. In Japan, loli is widespread, but its legality has been controversial, and attempts to regulate it have increased since the 1990s.

It's illegal in California to possess child porn material that “depicts a person under the age of 18 years personally engaging in or simulating sexual conduct.” Still, the Court of Appeals in California ruled there must be real children in the depiction, meaning anime and cartoon depictions of children engaging in sexual acts are not illegal. 

However, there are strict federal laws that protect minors from sexual exploitation, child pornography, and other sex-related crimes. These federal laws include watching animated depictions of children engaged in sexual activity, a form of child porn. 

Simply put, possession of lolicon is illegal in the United States if the anime was transmitted through the mail, internet, across state lines, or if there is evidence that you had the intent to distribute or sell it.

Simple possession of loli in California is not illegal under federal law. Still, if you possess a large amount, federal prosecutors typically allege you were planning to sell or distribute it. Proving that you received the loli via mail or the Internet is not normally challenging.

Is Virtual Child Porn Illegal?

As noted, in Japan, a lolicon (loli) is a genre of fictional media in which young girl characters appear in sexual contexts. Anime describes all forms of animated works. 
Loli is a type of Japanese anime depicting underage cartoon characters in sexually explicit situations and plots.

Virtual Child Pornography

Even though loli is common in Japan, many people here are highly opposed to it because it involves underage characters in sexual activities. In the United States, possession of child porn is illegal. 

Under the Protect Act of 2003, obscene images depicting minors are considered child pornography. Even though Loli does not depict real children, the act was passed to make virtual child porn illegal.

Since lolicon depicts an identifiable minor engaging in sexually explicit situations, it is a violation of federal law. This means you could be arrested and charged with a federal crime if you possess any lolicon.

California Penal Code 311 PC is the statute making child porn illegal, but it does not specifically address obscene materials related to lolicon.  Still, since it's illegal under federal law, if you watch or possess loli in California, you could possibly face federal child porn charges

Child porn is defined as obscene material that depicts minors under 18 engaging in or simulating sexual conduct.

Lolicon – Quick Facts

  • Lolicon is a highly controversial genre of anime or manga featuring explicit sexual depictions of underage female cartoon characters.
  • Loli depicting underage girls is called lolicon.
  • The male counterpart of lolicon is called shotacon.
  • Lolicon is a fully animated underage cartoon character.
  • The primary focus is sexualized characters and plots of underage girls.
  • No real children are exploited while creating loli.
  • The name "lolicon" comes from the novel Lolita.
  • The novel has adult males who are sexually attracted to underage females.
  • Lolicon is legal and common in Japan.
  • There is widespread confusion over whether it's illegal here.
  • Critics claim lolicon normalizes the exploitation of children.
  • Defenders claim it is protected under the freedom of speech laws.
  • Some states and countries have criminalized loli as pedophilia.

What is the PROTECT Act of 2003?

In 2003, the U.S. government passed the PROTECT Act, which made child pornography federally illegal. The law defines child pornography as any depiction of an identifiable minor that is engaging in sexual activity. Thus, lolicon is illegal at the federal level because it falls under the category of child pornography.

Is Lolicon Illegal in California?
Lolicon is illegal at the federal level as it falls under the category of child pornography

While some states have passed further laws against lolicon, California has not passed any such state law. Currently, the law prohibits child pornography but does not specifically include Lolicon.

However, California residents cannot legally interact with this material because of federal laws against lolicon possession, viewing, or creation. 

The PROTECT Act of 2003 (Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today) is a law designed to prevent child abuse and prosecute violent crimes against children.

As noted, under the Protect Act, lolicon is considered child pornography. This means if you possess lolicon or shotacon, you could be charged under federal law and face harsh penalties if convicted.

Lolicon is considered child porn if it visually depicts an identifiable minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct or it appears to be a visual depiction of an identifiable minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Notably, the possession of lolicon is illegal under federal law under the following conditions:

  • The anime depiction of underage minors is obscene,
  • It is transmitted through the mail or internet,
  • It was transported across state lines, or
  • There was intent to distribute or sell it.

As noted, simple possession of loli is not illegal unless you possess a large amount of it and federal prosecutors allege you intended to sell or distribute. 

The PROTECT Act – Quick Facts

  • Federal laws prohibit the possession of child pornography, which includes any obscene images that appear to depict an identifiable minor.
  • This Act is a valuable tool to fight the exploitation of children.
  • The Act gives federal law enforcement agencies tools to investigate crimes against children, including child porn.
  • The United States Supreme Court ruled that virtual child porn was protected under the First Amendment's free speech rights if it was not obscene.  
  • A crucial issue is porn, which is not a visual depiction of an actual child.
  • The Act was passed in response to heightened concerns over child porn.
  • It prohibits computer-generated child pornography.
  • It prohibits any visual depiction that is virtually indistinguishable from that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
  • Under this law, child porn is not only authentic images but also any visual depiction that "appears to be" minors in sexually explicit conduct.
  • Substantial possession of lolicon in the United States is a crime.
  • The Act provides a clear legal stance against child exploitation.  

What Are the Penalties If Convicted?

Suppose you possess a substantial amount of lolicon or other material that is considered child pornography. In that case, you could be indicted for violating 18 U.S.C. 2252 or other federal laws and face the following penalties:

  • Mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison
  • A maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
  • A maximum sentence of up to 40 years if you have prior related offenses.
  • Mandatory registration as a sex offender.

What Are the Best Defenses?

As discussed below, a skilled federal sex crime attorney can use different strategies to challenge criminal charges related to lolicon.

Federal Sex Crime Defense Attorney

Maybe we can argue there was a lack of knowledge or intent.  Perhaps you did not know the material you possessed was illegal. Perhaps you did not believe it depicted minors under the age of 18.

Perhaps you did not have the intent to download or distribute it. Maybe we claim there was a lack of understanding about the nature of the content or how it was obtained. Perhaps there was confusion over whether the lolicon was illegal.

Maybe you accidentally accessed lolicon, downloaded the material without being aware of its content, or inadvertently clicked on a link but stopped viewing it when you realized what it was.

Maybe you received a spam email containing lolicon or access to it but did not open it. Contact us for a free case review and to discuss legal options. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, California.

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