Child pornography is a serious felony in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Under Virginia Code §18.2-374.1:1, you can be charged with this crime for possessing or distributing child pornography. If you are convicted, you could be sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence and a hefty fine. However, you may have strong defenses that could result in the charges against you being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense through a plea agreement.
What Is Child Pornography?
In our state, child pornography is sexually explicit visual material that depicts or utilizes a minor as the subject. Visual material is broadly defined to include photos, drawings, movies, digital images, images stored on a computer, and more.
In order to determine the possible defenses to child pornography, it is important to understand what the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt for an accused to be convicted of possessing or distributing child pornography. They must establish the following:
- The materials were sexually explicit visual materials as defined under Virginia law.
- A minor is depicted in the materials.
- The defendant knew what the materials were, and they were in their possession, or they were selling or giving them to someone else.
Defenses to Child Pornography
You will need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Virginia to determine the defenses that could be effective and will help you achieve your goals in your case. Possible defenses include:
- Not sexually explicit. What is considered sexually explicit is not clear-cut. Depending on what was depicted, you may be able to argue that it was not sexually explicit or that you did not know that it was obscene.
- Mistake about minor’s age. You must have known that the depiction was of a minor under 18 years old. If you believed that the pornographic materials were of an adult or the person depicted was not a minor, you may be able to raise this as a defense.
- Your knowledge. To be convicted of child pornography, the prosecutor must prove that you knew that you were possessing or distributing child pornography. You may be able to argue this element was not proven if you accidentally clicked on a wrong link on the internet, the material was downloaded without your knowledge because of malware, or you had another valid reason for having or distributing child pornography.
- Legitimate purpose. If you had possession of child pornography that was used for medical, scientific, governmental, or law enforcement purposes, you may be able to argue that you had a legitimate reason to have the materials.
- Computer files. If the pornographic materials were found on a computer, they must be directly linked to you. If the computer is one that you share with others, your lawyer may be able to establish reasonable doubt about the link between you and the pornography.
If you were charged with a child pornography crime in Virginia, our knowledgeable criminal defense team may be able to mount an aggressive defense strategy for you. To find out more about how we can help, call our Manassas office or start a live chat to schedule your free initial consultation today.