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What is child pornography as defined by federal law?

A conviction on the charge of distributing child pornography can affect more than just a person's freedom. The stigma associated with any child sex crime is one that will not likely go away. This is true even if someone is found not guilty of the charge. Just an arrest can cause someone to lose his or her job, apartment or home and relationships with family and friends.

Some of our readers in North Carolina may want to know how the federal government defines child pornography. According to Section 2256 of Title 18 of the United States Code, child pornography is "any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age)." Visual depictions includes many formats, including photographs, computer generated or digital images and videos.

According to the U.S. Code, the image can be modified so it appears that there is an actual, identifiable minor for a charge of child pornography. Even film and videotape that is not developed or data stored electronically that can be converted into child images depicting pornography are illegal.

A child does not have to be engaging in sexual activity in order for the element of sexually explicit conduct to be met. An image that is sexually suggestive of a naked child can constitute child pornography.

According to federal law, child pornography cannot be produced, distributed, received or possessed. In addition, inducing, persuading, coercing or enticing a minor to engage in conduct considered sexually explicit for the purpose of creating visual images is illegal.

Charges of child pornography do not have to be charged at the federal level. They can be filed at the state level by themselves or in addition to federal charges. Depending on how the charges are filed, those who are facing such charges need an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure their rights are protected. No matter what the crime, the accused has a right to a fair and just trial, and if he or she is found guilty, it must be beyond a reasonable doubt.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, "Citizen's Guide to U.S. Federal Law on Child Pornography" Dec. 10, 2014

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