Pornographic images of children are illegal under federal law and they are not protected via First Amendment rights under the Constitution. Section 2256 of Title 18 specifically addresses child pornography and defines it as the visual presentation of content that is sexually explicit and involves an individual under the age of 18. The child in the images does not have to be engaged in a sexual act, but could simply be a naked image that is sexually suggestive.

Illegal child pornography includes videos, photographs and computer-made images that appear like children. It also includes images that have been modified or adapted and look like a minor. Child pornography law also applies to undeveloped film and videotape, as well as electronically stored information that can then be converted to images of child pornography.

It doesn’t matter what the age of consent is in a given state. All that matters is that the child involved in the pornography is under the age of 18 for federal law purposes.

Under federal law, the distribution, production, possession or reception of child pornography is prohibited when it involves the use of commerce. Furthermore, it is illegal to induce, persuade, coerce or entice a child under 18 years of age to engage in sexual conduct in order to produce pornography.

Being accused of a federal child pornography violation is very serious and could result in jail time for the individuals who are convicted. However, regardless the severity of the charge and/or the facts being brought against the accused, every Pennsylvania resident accused of federal child pornography crimes will have the opportunity to defend him- or herself against the charges in court.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, “Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Federal Law on Child Pornography,” accessed May 19, 2016