Child pornography laws are meant to protect children from being sexually exploited. Under the theory of the laws on child pornography, the very existence of sexual images of children is evidence of exploitation. This is true even if the person who possesses them had nothing to do with taking the pictures (or videos) or creating them.
But the law can be wildly misinterpreted and misapplied when there is no harm or threat to children from adults, such as cases of:
- Accusations against parents who print pictures at the CVS of their own children in the bathtub.
- When 15-year-olds are charged with “sexting” by texting suggestive or explicit photos of themselves, or transmitting them via messaging or social media apps like Snapchat.
- The age of consent for sex is 16, but you still can’t take a nude photo of yourself and share it until you are 18. Similarly, the age of consent for “sexual contact” is 14.
There are many inconsistencies and traps in these laws, and ways for people, including the police, to misinterpret what happened.
The statute generally requires “lascivious intent”, but just because your pictures of your darling infant in a tub have no such intent, it doesn’t mean that a photo tech won’t call the police before you get a chance to pick up your family photos.
Under Massachusetts law, a 15 year old can legally consent to sexual contact with an adult, yet can’t legally send a racy image to another 15 year old.
Sexual offense accusations are very serious and frightening.
Whatever happened to you, even if it was a mistake, is a serious and terrifying event in your life.
- Could I go to jail?
- Could I have to register as a sex offender?
- What will people think of me?
The answers are complicated, but we can help you work through this. For a confidential legal defense consultation for a Massachusetts sex offense or child pornography accusation, please call us today.
You need someone on your side as soon as possible!
Massachusetts Sexting laws
Under Massachusetts’ outdated child pornography laws, there is no distinction between disseminating child pornography and “sexting”.
- It doesn’t matter if it is the child himself or herself sharing a nude “selfie”. That would be dissemination.
- Even having a nude or sexually suggestive photo of yourself on your phone, and not distributing it is a child porn crime if you are 17 or under, or if the photo was taken when you were 17 or under.
- Coercing or encouraging a minor to send you a nude or sexual picture is a serious crime of “posing or exhibiting”. Even if you are a 16-year-old boy and ask your 16 year old girlfriend to send you a pic. You could be prosecuted and sentence to up to 20 years in jail, and have to register as a sex offender. You can legally have sex, since the age of consent is 16, but you can’t have a picture or video.
Disseminating harmful matter to a minor
If you are an adult, but send pornography to a minor, that is a separate, but related crime.
For example, an 18-year-old texting a picture of his genitals to his 17-year-old girlfriend could be charged with this offense.
Penalties for this are 2 1/2 years in jail, and fines of $1000 to $10,000 under Ch 272 Sec 28 of the Massachusetts General Laws.
Possession of Child Pornography
Possessing a digital photo or image of a child under 18 (whom you reasonably know to be under 18) in a sexual act, or posed in “lewd exhibition”, which can include unclothed genitals, buttocks or developed breasts of a female child is prohibited by law.
Penalties are up to 2 1/2 years in prison, and fines of up to $10,000.
Disemminationing of visual materials of a child in state of nudity or sexual contact under 18 years old.
Distribution or dissemination of child pornography is a felony sex offense. That distribution could be physical pictures, or more commonly, sharing digitally online. That sharing could be direct or indirect via apps, messaging, online message boards, or even anonymously such as via torrent sharing or bittorrent.
Under the law, you cannot disseminate any:
- nude photo of a child under 18
- visual material that depicts sexual conduct of a child under 18.
The penalty for distribution or dissemination of child porn is a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years if convicted.
Purchase of visual material of child depicted in sexual conduct
Knowing purchase of child pornography or depictions of sexual acts also a felony sex offense.
Penalties are up to 2 1/2 years in prison, and fines of up to $10,000. A second offense is up to 5 years in prison and $20,000. Third and subsequent offenses up to 10 years and $30,000.
Posing or exhibiting child pornography
If you are accused of the creation or display, by coercion, encouragement, solicitation or knowingly permitting creation of child pornographic images or materials, that is a separate charge.
A minor is deemed “incapable of consent” to this conduct.
So it is possible for one minor to be guilty of “posing or exhibiting” child pornography just by asking your underage girlfriend to send you a racy or nude photo, even if you are under 18, or if the child is over the age of consent (16).
Penalties for posing or exhibiting child porn are from 10 to 20 years in prison, and fines of $10,000 to $50,000.
Child Pornography Legal Defenses
Defenses of an accusation of engaging with child pornography include:
- Having no knowledge that the individual was under 18 years old
- having images for legitimate reasons that can be considered evidence of lack of lascivious intent.
Needless to say, these cases are extremely serious and sensitive.
While you may believe you did absolutely nothing wrong or illegal, because of the sensationalistic nature of these charges and accusation, you will need a careful and aggressive legal defense to protect your rights, your freedom, and your reputation.
Please call us immediately for a convidential criminal defense consultaiton.