Overview of child pornography laws in California - Part I

Law enforcement agencies throughout the country spend a great deal of their time and efforts in policing crimes against children. California is no different. Child pornography, in particular, is a primary focus for law enforcement agencies in California, especially since quite a bit of pornography - both legal and illegal - is produced within the state. In Part I of this series, we will examine what exactly constitutes child pornography and how a California resident could face charges related to child pornography.

First, child pornography can come in many different forms. But, to constitute child pornography it usually must depict one or more individuals under the age of 18 in some state of undress or engaged in some form of sexual contact. Prior to computers, of course, these materials came in the form of print photographs or recorded movies. Now, however, child pornography can be stored on digital files and shared widely on the internet.

Possession of child pornography is a crime. But, selling or otherwise distributing this material is a much more serious offense in California. This material can be sold or distributed on the internet via file-sharing websites, or even if it is emailed from one party to another. The exchange of actual, physical copies of pictures or movies is obviously a bit easier for law enforcement officials in California to pin down.

One of the key aspects in the prosecution of child pornography charges in a criminal trial is proving that the defendant was "knowingly" in possession or engaging in the distribution of these illegal materials. This goes beyond just a general knowledge about the material in question - it must be proven that the defendant knew that the material was indeed child pornography.

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