Child Pornography under Texas Law

Internet sex crimes are becoming more prevalent and more serious in today's technology-driven society where offenders falsely assume their online identity is anonymous. The Internet Watch Foundation confirmed 1,536 child sexual abuse domains on the Internet in 2008, 58% of which were housed in the United States. Child pornography is a $3 billion annual industry, and continues to grow with its' demand.

The state of Texas and the Federal Government prohibit the use, promotion or exploitation of children under the age of 18 for performance, employment or conduct of sexual acts or depictions of acts of a sexual nature. A person in Texas may not promote, create or distribute materials that demonstrate any of these illegal acts by any means of visual representation.

Penalties for employing a child under the age of 18 for sexual performance or conduct are severe, and such crimes are charged as second degree felonies. In Texas, second degree felonies carry a sentence of two to 20 years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Sixty-nine percent of all children in images of pornography are between zero and ten years old. If a child is younger than 14 years of age, the offender's charge is elevated to a first degree, which carries a sentence of five to 99 years in state prison and/or a fine of no more than $10,000. All federal sex crimes require mandatory sex offender registration for each offense, and a second conviction of child pornography carries a penalty of up to 40 years in federal prison.

If an individual knowingly produces, directs or promotes a performance that includes sexual performance of a child the defendant can be charged with a third degree felony, which carries a sentence of two to ten years and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If the child is 14 years old or younger the charge is risen to a second degree felony.

Intentional possession of child pornography is also a crime is charged as a third degree felony. If an individual has in their possession six or more identical visual depictions of child pornography, Texas law presumes that the individual had an intent to distribute the material. Child pornography possession with intent to distribute is raised to a second degree felony. The consent of a parent or legal guardian of an individual under 18 years old, for the child to engage in sexual performance is also punishable by Texas state law.

There are currently at least 48,595 registered sex offenders in Texas, many of which have committed Internet sex crimes. There are numerous entities that exist throughout the state and nation to combat Internet sex crimes. These organizations include the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Cyber Crimes Unit, the Houston Area Cyber Crime Task Force and Jessica's Law.

A child pornography conviction can influence the state of your social life, family and career, so if you have been charged with anything in the realm of child pornography, it is imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney who may be able to salvage your reputation. Defenses to child pornography charges include entrapment, lack of intent, lack of knowledge and mistake of fact.

Paul Darrow is a Houston criminal defense attorney that specializes in sex crime charges. Mr. Darrow started his legal career as a prosecutor for the Galveston County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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