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Pennsylvania Child Pornography Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Child Pornography Laws

Pennsylvania criminalizes many activities related to child pornography through its sexual abuse laws. State law prohibits the photographing, filming, and videotaping of a sexual act involving a child under the age of 18, regardless of whether the sexual act is real or simulated. A prosecutor must show that the defendant knowingly engaged in photographing, filming, or videotaping of the sexual act; however, the prosecutor does not need to prove the defendant's knowledge of the child's age.

Pennsylvania state laws also prohibit the dissemination of child pornography materials. A prosecutor may open a case against a defendant who shares, sells, distributes, or exhibits materials or recordings that include children under the age of 18.

See FindLaw's Crimes Against Children section to lear about similar crimes.

In addition, Pennsylvania law punishes the voluntary viewing or possession of child pornography within an individual's own home or another setting within the defendant's control. The prosecutor must show that the defendant kept pornographic photographs, books, videotapes, films, or computer files showing children. The prosecutor must also prove that the defendant intentionally viewed these materials or knowingly kept the materials in the defendant's possession.

Defenses to Child Pornography Charges

  • Material possessed or brought into Pennsylvania for an educational, government, judicial, or scientific purpose
  • Accidental or involuntary viewing of prohibited pornography materials

Note: The defendant's mistake regarding the child's age or the child's misrepresentation about age may not be used as defenses to a child pornography charge.

Penalties and Sentences

Photographing, filming, or videotaping child pornography is a second degree felony in Pennsylvania. A conviction may result in a sentence of imprisonment for up to 10 years.

The punishment for the distribution of child pornography or for the viewing, possessing, or control of child pornography depends on whether the defendant has previous convictions for the same offense. A first offense is a third degree felony, which may result in a term of imprisonment for up to five years. Any subsequent offense will be a second degree felony and punishable by a sentence of imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Pennsylvania laws require the registration of sexually violent predators with the State Board to Assess Sexually Violent Predators. While possession of child pornography might not necessarily qualify a convicted offender as a sexually violent predator, at least one state court has found that multiple convictions for sexual abuse of a child based on child pornography charges might be enough to require registration.

Federal laws also prohibit child pornography violations. An accused offender may face charges in federal district court in addition to, or instead of, charges in Pennsylvania state court.

Pennsylvania Child Pornography Statute

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. 6312

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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