Virginia prides itself in being tough on any crimes against minors, including those involving child pornography, and sentences can be some of the harshest in the United States. Unfortunately, just being charged with child pornography—even if you are innocent and the charges are later dismissed—can have long-term consequences on your life. It can affect the way family, co-workers, and friends view you, ruin your relationship with your spouse or partner, and impact on your right to custody of your children.
If you are charged with child pornography, you could be facing both state and federal felony charges with penalties of long prison sentences and fines. This is not a time to try to go it alone in the criminal justice system. You need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately who understands the complexities of both state and federal child pornography charges and the defenses to these charges to help you achieve the best outcome in your criminal case.
What Is Child Pornography?
Virginia law defines child pornography as sexually explicit material that is visual and that utilizes a minor or has an identifiable minor as the subject. At the time of the depiction, the child must be a minor, which is defined as under 18 years old, and an actual person. Visual material is liberally defined to include photographs, sculptures, movies, digital depictions—such as images or videos on a computer or other digital devices—and undeveloped film. Sexually explicit material can include the following:
- Exhibitions of nudity
- Sexual excitement
- Sexual conduct
- Sadomasochistic abuse
What Charges of Child Pornography Could You Face?
There are three main crimes that fall under child pornography in Virginia that you could be charged with—all are felonies. You could be charged with one or all of these crimes:
- Production of child pornography. This involves soliciting or enticing a minor to be the subject of child pornography, producing, attempting to produce, or knowingly taking part in the production of child pornography, or financing or attempting to finance child pornography. This crime can be committed whether or not the minor agrees to or goes through with the act. This means you can be charged for just asking a minor to do this.
- Possession of child pornography. You could be charged with possession of child pornography if you knowingly possess an item that depicts sexual exploitation or abuse. This is defined very liberally, and your intentions are not relevant. In addition, you can be charged with this crime if you have the ability to retrieve or view the materials by any means.
- Distribution of child pornography. Distribution can include knowingly reproducing, selling, copying, giving away, or electronically sending child pornography. If you email, print, or show a friend an image, this is considered distribution. So is sexting an image or posting it on a social media site. Most people who possess child pornography can also be charged with distribution of it.
Penalties You Could Face If Convicted of Child Pornography
The sentence you could face if convicted of a child pornography offense would depend on many factors, including whether this is your first or subsequent conviction and the age difference between you and the minor. In general, you could face these felony conviction penalties:
- Production. You could be sentenced to prison for between 1 and 40 years. You may also be fined.
- Possession. You could be sentenced to less than one year in prison for a first offense to up to 20 years for a subsequent offense. Fines are generally a maximum of $2,500.
- Distribution. You could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for a first offense. A second offense carries the same penalty, except that you must serve a minimum five-year sentence. If you are convicted of distributing child pornography through use of a website, you could be sentenced to prison for up to 10 years and be fined up to $100,000.
For any of these convictions, you will also most likely be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.
How Greenspun Shapiro PC Can Help You If You Are Charged With Child Pornography Crimes
The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Greenspun Shapiro PC have over 80 years of combined experience handling a variety of criminal matters for our clients—including defending against child pornography charges. We understand the enormous impact being charged with one of these crimes can have on your life. We will thoroughly investigate the facts of your case and aggressively raise all of your defenses so that the charges are dismissed or reduced to the least possible sentence. Even if you believe you are guilty, you could have defenses to the charges, and hiring an attorney could result in a better outcome for you. Start an online chat or contact our Fairfax law firm now to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys.