What's the Difference Between Possession, Distribution and Production of Child Pornography for Criminal Purposes?
When it comes to the area of federal child pornography charges, typically what ends up happening is the federal authorities find child pornography in somebody's computer and then the question becomes what are they going to charge that person with?
It's illegal under 18 U.S.C. § 2252 to produce, distribute, receive or possess any child pornography. Under federal law, it's also illegal to knowingly search for and view child pornography even if the images are deleted.
A conviction for a federal child pornography can result in 10 years in federal prison for knowingly possessing child pornography, and up to 20 years if the minor depicted in the images is under 12 years old. Distribution or receiving child pornography carries up to a 20 year prison sentence.
If you have a prior conviction, the penalties will increase. Also, there will be fines and victim restitution payments a child pornography conviction in federal court will require registration as a sex offender.
Possession and Distribution of Child Pornography Images
If they find it on their computer they could certainly charge them with possession of child pornography which basically means that that particular individual possessed child pornography on their computer, their cellphone or other devices. That's probably the least serious charge related to child pornography there is.
If that person sent the child pornography to anybody or shared the child pornography with someone, then that person could also be charged with distribution of child pornography which is a much more serious charge than just straight possession of child pornography.
This is because now you're making child pornography available to somebody else. If it's on the computer then the feds are usually going to get involved. If you're involved in multiple images then the federal government will become involved in prosecuting you.
Production of Child Pornography
Lastly, in order to get charged with production of child pornography, what we would usually think of as production where someone's actually producing a film that has in the film individuals who are under age who are engaging in some sort of sexual act and if you produce that film to be sold or distributed on the internet then you could certainly be charged with production of child pornography.
There' another way that the feds can get this particular crime and that is if you ask a minor to send you a nude photograph for example, that would be production of child pornography.
It carries the same teeth as if you produced a movie and put it out there and victimized a child. There are mandatory minimum penalties for sex offenses in the federal criminal justice system.
Mandatory Minimum Penalties for Federal Sex Offenses
So, you have to be careful because production of child pornography which usually carries a 15 mandatory minimum, can be very damaging to a criminal defendant and the judges and prosecutors look at it very broadly.
They will charge someone with production if they think they can prove it and if they think it reached the definition that is necessary in order to charge somebody with production of child pornography.
A lot of times depending on the circumstances, they may be willing to negotiate from there, but they certainly have a lot of negotiating power if they can potentially get a 15 year sentence minimally against and individual who is having somebody produce child pornography for them.
That kind of gives you a thumbnail sketch as to the difference between possession, distribution and production of child pornography, all of which come with very serious consequences.
But if someone is going to have to plead guilty to a federal child pornography charge you'd obviously want just a straight possession of child pornography plea versus distribution or production.