Texas laws aggressively pursue anyone who partakes in child pornography in the state. People who are charged with this crime face some of the harshest civil and criminal penalties. They are also subject to being prosecuted both at the state and federal levels.
When you find yourself charged with possessing or promoting child pornography in Texas, you need to act assertively in your own best legal interests. You may avoid going to prison and paying thousands in fines by understanding child pornography laws in Texas and hiring a qualified attorney to defend you against these charges.
Defining Child Pornography Charges
Texas uses two primary charges to combat child pornography within its borders. Offenders can be charged with possession of child pornography or promotion of child pornography, depending on their criminal actions.
Both possession and promotion of child pornography in Texas involves imagery, including electronic and actual images, of a child under the age of 18 engaging in what is legally defined as sexual conduct. It should be noted, however, that Texas has a relatively new charge of Possession or Promotion of Lewd Visual Material Depicting a Child, which does not require the child be engaging in sexual conduct.
Still, under Texas statutes, a person can be legally charged with possession of child pornography if they intentionally and knowingly possessed or accessed with the intent of viewing any kind of material that depicted a child under the age of 18 engaging in sexual conduct. They can also be charged with the same offense if they knew the child was under the age of 18 when the pornographic images were made.
Similarly, a person in Texas can be charged with promotion of child pornography if they intentionally and knowingly promoted or possessed with the intent of promoting material depicting a child under the age of 18 engaging in sexual conduct. This same charge applies if the person knew at the time that the images were made that the child was under the age of 18.
An important component of these charges involves knowing how Texas defines “sexual conduct.” Under Texas law, sexual conduct is defined as behaviors, including those that are simulated, that depict masturbation, sado-masochism, lewd exhibition of genitals (including the anus or any part of the female breast below the areola), bestiality or penetrative sexual intercourse. If a person possesses images of a child under the age of 18 engaging in any or all of these behaviors, they can face both state and federal charges of child pornography in Texas.
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What are the Legal Penalties for Child Pornography Charges in Texas?
People who are found guilty of possessing or promoting child pornography in Texas face serious and long-lasting financial and criminal punishments. Even a first-time conviction of either offense at the state level can result in a prison sentence lasting between 15 and 30 years. The convict may also be ordered to pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution.
At the federal level, possession of child pornography is charged as a third degree felony, unless the accused has one prior child pornography conviction. In that instance, the charge would be a second degree felony. The charge becomes a first degree felony if the accused has two prior child pornography possession convictions.
Likewise, a charge of promotion of child pornography is a second degree felony, unless the accused has prior promotion of child pornography convictions. If they have prior convictions of this charge, the accused will be charged with a first degree felony.
Also at the felony level, a first-time conviction can result in up to 10 years in federal prison. The prison term increases to up to 20 years if the victim was under the age of 12 when the pornographic images were created.
If a convicted person has prior convictions for either promotion or possession of child pornography, they must spend a minimum of 10 years in prison. However, their sentence will be capped at 20 years regardless of the age of the victim in the images.
As a final component of their sentence, a person convicted of possession or promotion of child pornography in Texas will have to register as a sex offender. The amount of time that they must spend on the registry will largely depend on the nature of their crime, as well as their age. As a general rule, juvenile offenders typically do not have to register for as long as adult offenders.
Texas Child Pornography Case Challenges
While the laws regarding child pornography possession or promotion in Texas are clearly stated, the cases involving these offenses can be less solid. A number of factors can complicate the prosecution’s case and allow someone who is charged with either offense to avoid being convicted.
For example, questions can arise about who legally owned the device on which the files were found. A defense attorney can argue that the device was shared among numerous people. Further, the attorney can argue that the accused had no way of knowing the age of the victim, particularly if there was no way to contact the child in the images.
Likewise, a defense attorney may argue that the images were made for legitimate reasons allowed under Texas state law. These reasons include those for purposes like:
- Law enforcement
Finally, a defense attorney might get the case thrown out if the accused was married to the child in the images or was no more than two years older than the victim.
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Why Hire an Attorney?
If you find yourself charged with promotion or possession of child pornography in Texas, it is imperative that you hire an experienced attorney to defend you. Your attorney can be the key to proving your innocence or helping you avoid the maximum penalty allowed under both state and federal laws.
If you are innocent of all charges, you need a competent defense attorney to find and submit evidence to prove your innocence. They can bring to light facts that show that you did not purposely commit either offense and thus should not be convicted and sent to prison.
If the evidence is not necessarily in your favor, you can still benefit from hiring an experienced defense attorney. Your lawyer can argue for why you should not be convicted or sent to prison. They may help you escape the worst legal punishments and avoid having to register as a sex offender.
Child pornography possession or promotion are serious crimes in Texas. They carry some of the harshest penalties allowed under state and federal laws. You may avoid going to prison and having to pay thousands in fines by hiring a knowledgeable child pornography defense lawyer in Texas to represent you.