Child Pornography Laws, Defenses and Penalties in Texas
Any criminal activities involving pornography featuring children or minors in Texas can be severely penalized. It is a crime to intentionally and knowingly possess pictures, video recordings or digital images of minors under the age of 18 engaging in sexual conduct. Sexual conduct is defined under Texas law as real or simulated sexual intercourse, lewd display of genitals or breasts, sexual contact and masturbation.
If a person is found to be in possession of six or more identical images featuring a minor under the age of 18 engaging in sexual conduct, it may be presumed that the person intended to distribute the images. Distribution of child pornography is a separate and more serious criminal charge.
Texas Child Pornography Penalties
A conviction for possession or distribution of child pornography can be punished in several ways. For example, a charge for possession of sexually explicit material featuring a minor under the age of 18 can lead to:
- Conviction on a third degree felony charge
- Incarceration in prison for a term of two to 10 years
- A fine of up to $10,000
If evidence is submitted showing that the defendant intended to or attempted to distribute sexually explicit material featuring minors, the charges can be upgraded to:
- Conviction on a second degree felony charge
- Incarceration in prison for two to 20 years
- A fine of up to $10,000
Child pornography convictions may also require the defendant to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his or her life.
Sexting and Child Pornography
In 2011, Texas changed the laws regarding the transmission of sexually explicit photos that minors send to each other, known as “sexting”. Until the law was changed, it was possible for a minor who sent a sexually explicit photo to another minor, even within the context of a romantic relationship, to be charged with child pornography distribution.
When the law was changed, the severity of the possible penalties was lessened. As of now, a minor under the age of 18 who sends a sexually explicit photo may be:
- Charged with a misdemeanor offense
- Be required to attend an education class with a parent
Under the new law, minor defendants may be eligible to have their records expunged when they turn 18 if they successfully complete the requirements handed down by the court. They will also not be required to register as a sex offender for a first offense.
Repeated offenses, however, may lead to jail time, fines and sex offender registration.
Child Pornography Defenses
It may be possible to defend against charges of child pornography in court. In many cases, these kinds of defenses are based on the fact that the defendant was misled, unaware of certain facts or was the victim of entrapment.
For example, if a minor under the age of 18 deceives an adult about his or her age and the adult receives sexual images from the minor, it may be possible to argue that the defendant had no way of knowing the minor’s actual age.
A lack of intent may also provide the basis for a defense. For example, if a person puts explicit materials onto a defendant’s computer, the defense attorney may argue that there is no evidence that the defendant knew about the material or that the defendant intended to distribute it.
Minors under the age of 18 who are in a romantic relationship may be charged with child pornography but the defense attorney may be able to have the punishment reduced. The minors may have to face educational classes rather than jail time, fines or probation.