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Federal Child Pornography Laws in a Nutshell

As the DOJ states, “Federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (persons less than 18 years old).  Images of child pornography are also referred to as child sexual abuse images.  Federal law prohibits the production, distribution, importation, reception, or possession of any image of child pornography.   A violation of federal child pornography laws is a serious crime, and convicted offenders face fines severe statutory penalties.”

Below are the federal statutes that address child pornography.

18 U.S.C. §2252 – Child pornography;
18 U.S.C. §2252A – Sexual exploitation of minors; and
18 U.S.C. §1466A – Obscene visual representation of sexual abuse of minors

18 U.S.C. 2251 – Sexual Exploitation of Children

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Below are the statutory minimum and maximum punishments for these offenses:

I. Possession of child pornography (first offense)

  • No minimum; maximum 10 years
  • BOL (Base offense level) 18 (27-33 months)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252(b)(2); 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(2)

II. Possession of child pornography (second or subsequent sex-based offense and pornography depicts child under 12 years old)

  • Minimum 10 years; maximum 20 years
  • BOL 18 (27-33 months)
  • 18 U.S.C. §2252(b)(2); 18 U.S.C. §2252A(b)(2)
III. Mailing, transporting, or receiving, or possession with intent to sell child pornography (first offense)

  • Minimum 5 years; maximum 20 years
  • BOL 22 (41- 51 months)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252(b)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(1)
IV. Mailing, transporting, or receiving, or possession with intent to sell child pornography (second or subsequent sex-based offense)
  • Minimum 15 years; maximum 40 years
  • BOL 22 (41-51 months)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252(b)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(1)
V. Possession of visual representations of sexual abuse of children (first offense)
  • No minimum; maximum 10 years
  • BOL 18 (27-33 months)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252(b)(2); 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(2) (per 18 U.S.C. § 1446A(a))
VI. Possession of visual representations of sexual abuse of children (second or subsequent sex-based offense & pornography that depicts child under 12 years old)
  • Minimum 10 years; maximum 20 years
  • BOL 18 (27-33 months)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252(b)(2); 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(2)) (per 18 U.S.C. § 1446A(a))

VII. Mailing, transporting, or receiving, or possession with intent to sell images depicting sexual abuse of children (first offense)

  • Minimum 5 years; maximum 20 years
  • BOL 22 (41-51 months)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252(b)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(1) (per 18 U.S.C. §1446A(b))

VIII. Mailing, transporting, or receiving, or possession with intent to sell images depicting sexual abuse of children (second or subsequent sex-based offense)

  • Minimum 15 years; maximum 40 years
  • BOL 22 (41-51 months)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252(b)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(b)(1) (per 18 USC 1446A(b))
IX. Production
  • Minimum 15 years; Maximum 30 years
  • BOL 32 (121-151 months)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2251

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Below are the applicable United States Sentencing Guidelines.

Production USSG 2G2.1

This includes situations that involve asking a minor for an illicit image, or a situation such as the following link: https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/metro-atlanta-couple-charged-with-using-adopted-kids-make-child-porn/DQIMBH4YZNFC5E6UUSSXM2HLDA/ 

BOL  32 (121-151 months)

POSSIBLE ENHANCEMENTS:

+4 under age 12;

+2 age 12-16

+2 sex act

+4 levels if sex act AND 18 U.S.C. § 2241 (a) or (b) Aggravated sexual abuse

Distribution USSG 2G2.2

BOL 22; 2252 and 2252A not under either below

Receipt

BOL 20 since not possession and defendant’s conduct was limited to receipt and there was no intent to traffic or distribute

Possession

BOL 18 2252(a)(4), 2252A(a)(5) or 2252A(a)(7)

POSSIBLE ENHANCEMENTS:

+2 under age 12

+x for pecuniary gain (see fraud table 2B1.1. but not less than +5)

+5 for any type of gain other than pecuniary

+5 if distributed to a minor

+6 if distributed to a minor to coerce minor to engage in illegal activity

+7  if distributed to a minor to coerce minor to engage in illegal activity and make minor travel

+2 if knowingly distributed other than described anywhere else

+2 masochistic or sadist

+4 if toddler or infant 

+5 if pattern

+2 use of computer 

+2 10-150 images

+3 150-300 images

+4 300-600 images

+5 600 plus images *Note with videos, it is very easy to get to 600 plus images.

There are many strategies for defending someone charged with these type of charges. Have the photos been edited? Are the individuals in the images actually under the age of 18?  Were these images downloaded by accident? Did someone else have access to the computer?  The router?

As described above, the consequences of a child pornography conviction are severe and life-altering. The collateral consequence of the sex offender registry can be devastating.

For further information, or if you have a loved one charged with this, please contact our firm.

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