Crimes against children are always complicated, so any discussion of the topic of child pornography must begin by defining it and distinguishing it from the more general term “pornography.” Child pornography is the aggressive sexual exploitation of children. Each child who is involved in child pornography is a victim of child sexual abuse, and each image is the record of a child’s abuse.
The sad truth is that in our time, and due almost entirely to the emergence of the internet over the last two decades, child pornography is now a global plague, an ongoing tragedy that damages children in almost every part of the world. The child pornography “market” has flourished, and images are now available through file-sharing sites, photo-sharing sites, and mobile apps. Child pornography consumers are surreptitiously becoming an online “community,” sharing interests and stories along with images.
Child pornography is considered a crisis in Japan; religious, political, and business leaders are frequently accused of child pornography; and it’s linked to prostitution, human trafficking, and other crimes against children around the globe. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “no area of the United States or country in the world is immune from individuals who seek to sexually exploit children through child pornography. The continuous production and distribution of child pornography increases the demand for new and more egregious images, perpetuating the continued molestation of child victims, as well as the abuse of new children.”
WHAT CAN HAPPEN IN CHILD PORNOGRAPHY INVESTIGATIONS?
When law enforcement authorities investigate child pornography, they can be understandably overzealous. Thus, because almost everyone in Texas has access to the internet, almost anyone can be investigated for child pornography. Computer tampering isn’t that hard; almost anyone can find a way to tamper with someone else’s files. Furthermore, at some point in the last twenty years, almost everyone who spends time online has “clicked” something he or she did not mean to click – at least once. Sometimes a child pornography charge will be reduced or simply tossed out of court because overzealous police officers obtained the evidence illegally.
Furthermore, at some point in the last twenty years, almost everyone who spends time online has “clicked” something he or she did not mean to click – at least once. Sometimes a child pornography charge will be reduced or simply tossed out of court because overzealous police officers obtained the evidence illegally.
Across the United States, more than sixty multiple-agency law enforcement task forces identify, pursue, and prosecute child pornographers – and child pornography consumers – who operate through the internet. Both federal and Texas state law make it a crime to possess intentionally and knowingly any “visual material” that depicts a minor under the age of 18 engaging in “sexual conduct.”
“Sexual conduct” may include but is not limited to sexual contact, intercourse, the display of breasts or genitals, and masturbation. “Visual material” may include videos, photographs, or any type of visual image. Under Texas state law, the possession of child pornography is a third-degree felony. A conviction is punishable by two-to-ten years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR DISTRIBUTING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY?
The law in Texas also presumes that the possession of six or more images of child pornography indicates that the suspect in possession intended to share, trade, sell, or otherwise promote those images. The intent to promote child pornography is a second-degree felony in this state and is punishable upon conviction by two-to-twenty years in a state prison and by a fine of up to $10,000. A conviction for either possession or intent to promote child pornography also requires registration as a sex offender.
Federal child pornography laws can be even tougher. For example, under the Child Protection Act of 2012, the maximum term of incarceration upon a conviction for the possession of pornographic images of a minor under twelve years of age is now twenty years in federal prison. And even today, not all child pornography images are stored on computers. It is also a federal crime to create, reproduce, distribute, receive, or transport, physically or by wire, any images of minors engaging in
And even today, not all child pornography images are stored on computers. It is also a federal crime to create, reproduce, distribute, receive, or transport, physically or by wire, any images of minors engaging in explicit sexual behavior.
Anyone who is facing any state or federal child pornography charge in Texas will very much need a seasoned and knowledgeable defense representation. In the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area, if you are arrested on a child pornography charge, an experienced Dallas criminal defense attorney should be retained at once. Don’t try to “explain” to the police how the images came into your possession. Exercise your right to remain silent and let your attorney do the talking.
WHAT ARE THE AGE OF CONSENT LAWS IN TEXAS?
The age of consent in the state of Texas is 17 years old. Minors who are age 16 or below cannot legally consent to sexual activity, and adults who are associated such activity may face serious criminal charges. If an adult engages in sexual activity with a minor under the age of 17, the adult may be charged with indecency with a child, a second-degree felony in Texas punishable upon conviction by a term of two-to-twenty years in a Texas state prison.
Under Texas law, two legal defenses are recognized to the charge of indecency with a child: the couple’s age difference is less than three years and they are of the opposite sex; or the couple is legally married. With parental consent, minors in Texas can marry at age 14. However, neither of those defenses may be offered to the court if the defendant was already a registerable sex offender or used threats, duress, or force against a minor.
However, if an adult engages in sexual activity with a minor under the age of 14, it’s a much more serious crime – aggravated sexual assault, which is prosecuted as a first-degree felony in this state. A conviction for aggravated sexual assault is punishable by a prison term of five years-to-life in a Texas state prison.
Anyone who is facing either charge – indecency with a child or aggravated sexual assault – is in grave legal trouble. If you or someone you love is charged with one of these crimes in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, speaking immediately about the case with an experienced Dallas criminal defense attorney is imperative.
Law enforcement agencies in the state of Texas are to be commended for protecting our state’s children from the people who would exploit them. Everyone agrees that sex crimes, when committed against children, are complicated. Yet two wrongs never make a right, so there is never an excuse for prosecutors to accuse the innocent unjustly or for police officers to trample on anyone’s constitutional rights.