Child pornography and the sexual exploitation of children are illegal according to both Oklahoma law and federal law. However, despite laws cracking down on the possession and distribution of child pornography, these are offenses that continue to grow through advances in technology.
No longer are pornographic images of minors available only through self-production, mail , or person-to-person distribution. Instead, access to sexually explicit images of minors is only a click away via the internet and file-sharing sites. Because of this easy access to child pornography, men and women who would not have had access to these images in earlier decades find themselves criminally charged for downloading child pornography.
Though obscenity laws are frequently challenged in light of the First Amendment right to free speech and freedom of the press, not all images and speech is constitutionally protected. Images and videos that sexually exploit children and minors under the age of 18 are prohibited by state and federal law, and their production, distribution, and possession are felony sex crimes.
Oklahoma state law prohibits child pornography, defined as sexually explicit material involving minors under the age of 18. Although Oklahoma stipulates the age of legal consent to sexual activity as 16, this does not include pornography or commercial sex acts, in accordance with federal laws against the sexual exploitation of children. This means that anyone who possesses a sexually explicit image of a person under the age of 18 is guilty of possession of child pornography, even if the “victim” is of legal age to consent to sex and willingly sent the explicit picture of himself or herself. This discrepancy in age of consent and age at which a person is considered a minor under federal law results in criminal charges for teens and adults involved in sexting.
Under state law, child pornography is a felony defined in 21 O.S. § 1021.2:
“A. Any person who shall procure or cause the participation of any minor under the age of eighteen (18) years in any child pornography or who knowingly possesses, procures, or manufactures, or causes to be sold or distributed any child pornography shall be guilty, upon conviction, of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than twenty (20) years or by the imposition of a fine of not more than Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00) or by both said fine and imprisonment. Persons convicted under this section shall not be eligible for a deferred sentence. Except for persons sentenced to life or life without parole, any person sentenced to imprisonment for two (2) years or more for a violation of this subsection shall be required to serve a term of post-imprisonment supervision pursuant to subparagraph f of paragraph 1 of subsection A of Section 991a of Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes under conditions determined by the Department of Corrections. The jury shall be advised that the mandatory post-imprisonment supervision shall be in addition to the actual imprisonment.
B. The consent of the minor, or of the mother, father, legal guardian, or custodian of the minor to the activity prohibited by this section shall not constitute a defense.”
Frequently, additional crimes are charged in conjunction with a child pornography case. If a person is accused of producing child pornography, he or she is likely to be charged with lewd acts with a minor as well. If a person downloads child pornography or shares images of child porn over the internet, he or she will likely be additionally charged with violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act, a felony that carries the potential for 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine in addition to any penalties associated with the underlying child pornography conviction.
Possession of Child Pornography is a Level 1 Sex Offense. This means that a person convicted of this crime must register as an Oklahoma Sex Offender for a term of 15 years after completion of his or her sentence. As a registered sex offender, one’s personal information—including his or her address and the offense for which he or she was convicted—is publicly available on the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registry website.
As mentioned previously, the United States Criminal Code considers sexually explicit depictions of minors under the age of 18 to be child pornography. Such depictions may include actual or computer-generated simulations of sexually explicit conduct, according to 18 USC § 2256.
Upon a first offense, a federal child pornography conviction carries 5 to 20 years in prison; subsequent offenses, or offenses following a previous crime of sexual exploitation of sexual abuse of children, carry a sentence of 15 to 40 years in prison.
Child pornography may be charged as either a state or federal offense. Often, Oklahoma cases are the result of undercover investigations by the Oklahoma Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, and federal cases are the result of investigations by the FBI and the United States Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood initiative.
Most child pornography arrests come from an undercover investigation, either through a law enforcement tip or from decoys in child pornography forums. Once a computer user shares a pornographic file with a task force officer, an arrest is made and the suspect is charged with distribution of child pornography. Other times, agents identify the IP address of a person who downloads child pornography in order to make an arrest.
Any covert operation must be conducted carefully, and any evidence seized must be obtained without violating a person’s right to be free from unlawful and unreasonable search and seizure. The failure of law enforcement to conduct its investigations lawfully may be instrumental in securing a dismissal of the case.
To schedule a free consultation with an experienced and successful sex crime defense lawyer, call Law Firm of Oklahoma at (405) 608-4990.