What to Do When Accused of Child Pornography in Texas?

What to Do When Accused of Child Pornography in Texas?

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Have you been accused of child pornography and feel that admitting it might help your case? Do not accept wrongdoing before knowing what Texas laws say about the crime or contacting a sex offender attorney. Texas laws on child pornography are stringent. They protect children from being exploited or involved in the production of pornographic materials. As such, possession, viewing, and distribution of pornographic materials depicting children under the age of 18 is a third-degree felony. Besides, the offense attracts high social stigma and you might be entered on the register for sex offenders. Learn more about child pornography laws and what to do when accused of such a serious crime.

Child Pornography Laws in Texas

Under Texas Penal Code § 43.26, child pornography refers to the visual depiction of minors engaging in sexual conduct. The law separates the offense into two categories— possession and promotion.

Possession 

An individual is accused of child pornography possession when they knowingly or intentionally access and view visual materials depicting minors engaging in sexual conduct. Possession includes accessing prohibited visual materials through an internet search and downloading or saving them on an electronic device.

Promotion 

Under Texas laws, the promotion of child pornography refers to knowingly reproducing, distributing, or selling visual materials depicting minors involved in sexual conduct. Digital transfer of such materials also constitutes a crime.

The law broadly defines sexual conduct to include actual or simulated sexual acts, bestiality, and vulgar display of a minor’s nakedness. Lewd selfies and sexting with minors may also fall under sexual conduct.

Hand behind bars.

Punishment for Child Pornography Offenses

Child pornography offenses are punishable under state and federal laws. At the state level, possessing or viewing child pornography is generally a third-degree felony. However, punishment varies with the frequency of offense, number of pornographic items, and age of the victim.  

First-time offenders are considered to have committed a third-degree felony punishable by two to ten years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. A person convicted of possessing child pornography for a second time is guilty of a second-degree felony. Punishment for a second-degree felony is imprisonment for up to 20 years and fines of up to $10,000. Third-time offenders are charged with a first-degree felony punishable by up to 99 years or life imprisonment. 

New Penalty Scheme 

Although they regard child pornography offenses as third-degree offenses, Senate Bill 129 of 2023 introduced a new penalty scheme based on the number of visual items. When the items are less than 100, one is charged with a third-degree felony. The offense becomes a second-degree felony when the pornographic materials exceed 100 but are fewer than 500. They consider possessing more than 500 items a first-degree offense.

Penalties for Promoting Sexual Depiction of Children

Having more than six identical copies graduates the offense from possession to promotion. The promotion of child pornography is even more serious than possessing it to view. A first-time offender is charged with a second-degree felony, while repeat offenders can be charged with a first-degree felony.
Offenders can also face charges in federal courts when the offense takes place in a federal jurisdiction. Punishment under federal laws can be more severe. 

Punishment Based on the Age of the Victim

The punishment also varies with the age of a child whose image is depicted sexually. When the child depicted in the visual images is below 14 years old, an offender is charged with a first-degree felony, even if it is their first offense. Penalties for such a crime can be up to life imprisonment. 

Register of Sex Offenders in Texas

All individuals convicted of child pornography are entered into the register of sex offenders. Offenders can remain in the register for 10 years or life, depending on the gravity of their offense.

Arrested man in handcuffs with hands behind back.

So Can You Get Arrested if You Admit to Having Child Pornography? 

It is the responsibility of law enforcement authorities to investigate and prove possession or promotion of child pornography. The authorities must also show the defendant intentionally possessed or promoted visual materials depicting a child or children sexually. Admitting to having child pornography can only initiate an investigation and collection of evidence to sustain a conviction.

What to Do When Accused of Child Pornography

The offense of child pornography is broad and it is possible to find yourself on the wrong side of the law. When accused of an offense under child pornography laws, try to avoid incriminating yourself or complicating the matters at hand. Here are some basic principles to follow.

  • Do not provide self-incriminating evidence to law enforcers. Admitting to the office or offering evidence will not make you look innocent. They will use it against you in court.
  • Contact a sex offender attorney immediately. The attorney provides legal guidance and protects your rights during investigation and in court. Remember the prosecution is out to get you sentenced, and you need a strong defense.
  • Do not resist a legal search but always insist on having your attorney present during the search.
    Never accept a plea deal without the advice of your attorney. Your attorney will assess the option of a plea deal and trial and guide you accordingly. Remember admitting or accepting a plea deal can get you in the sex offenders register without trial.
Man using a laptop in a living room at home.

Possible Defense in a Child Pornography Crime

Are you facing charges of child pornography? Here are some possible defense strategies.

  •  Apply the unintentional defense approach. You can use this strategy if they discover the visual materials in a shared computer.
  • Proof the prohibited material was placed in your computer by a hacker or through a virus malware.
  • Apply affirmative defense. Admit possessing the visual material but justify the reason for having them. You could have possessed the material for educational, religious, judicial, or other uses.

Accused of Child Pornography? Contact a Texas Sex Offender Attorney

At Starr Law, P.C., we understand the strictness of Texas child pornography laws and the social stigma around the offense. However, we endeavor to protect your rights during the investigation and in court. Before admitting to child pornography, contact an experienced sex offender attorney from Starr Law, P.C.

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