Facing Charges for Child Pornography in Union County NJ
When you are facing charges for child pornography possession or distribution in New Jersey, you need to tread very carefully. Do not talk to the police without first speaking to a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney. Do not attempt to “work out a deal” with prosecutors without first securing legal representation. The bottom line is that the consequences of a conviction on child pornography charges are so devastating – including prison time and sex offender registration requirements for life – that you simply cannot afford to take any chances. Moreover, even a mere accusation involving child pornography often carries a stigma that can have a catastrophic impact on your reputation, your family, and your livelihood.
If you have been arrested and charged with possessing child pornography, distributing or disseminating child pornography, participating in or allowing a child to participate in child pornography, or producing child pornography, our team of Union County criminal defense attorneys is poised to protect you in the face of these serious allegations. With over a decade of experience each, our lawyers have successfully defended clients facing charges for child pornography and other potentially damaging sex crimes throughout New Jersey. Contact our local office in Cranford to discuss your particular situation and get the advice you need now.
Whether you are under investigation for child pornography in Westfield, Linden, Clark, Plainfield, New Providence, Roselle, Rahway, Hillside, or you have been formally charged, don’t delay in reaching out for our help.
What you can be Charged with for Child Pornography in New Jersey
Child pornography offenses in New Jersey are technically classified as endangering the welfare of a child offenses, and they are addressed by N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4 of the NJ Criminal Code. While one part of the statute covers child endangerment in the context of child abuse and child neglect, the other part of the statute covers sexual conduct involving a child, including child pornography. As set forth by the law, there are several prohibited sexual acts that can constitute a child pornography offense when the acts involve a child who is under the age of 18. These prohibited acts include sexual intercourse, sexual contact, and nudity when that nudity is depicted for the purpose of sexual gratification.
In addition to providing definitions of what exactly constitutes prohibited conduct with a minor, the criminal statute also contains subsections that mention various types of child pornography offenses, which include the following.
Possessing or Viewing Child Pornography
It is against the law for anyone to knowingly possess or view a picture, video, or other item that depicts a child being sexually exploited. If police find sexually explicit photos or videos of a child in your home or workplace, or if they search your computer and find a file that shows a minor engaging in a prohibited sexual act, you can be charged with a felony sex offense.
Distributing, Selling, or Disseminating Child Pornography
Enhanced criminal charges for child pornography may be filed against an adult who knowingly distributes photos or videos of a minor engaged in a sexually explicit act, or when the adult possesses the photos or videos with the intention of later distributing them. It is important to note that it won’t matter whether the child pornography was actually sold for money, or it was disseminated for free on the internet via a computer file-sharing program. The offender is likely to be charged with illegally distributing child pornography.
Filming, Photographing, or Producing Child Pornography
The child pornography statute explicitly prohibits anyone from photographing or filming a minor engaged in a sexual act. Importantly, the statute does not make a distinction between an actual sexual act and a simulated sexual act, so even a “staged” photo or video of a minor engaged in sexual activity can result in child pornography charges.
Allowing a Child to Participate
One of the most serious child pornography charges can be filed against an adult who causes or permits a minor to engage in a sexually explicit act that is photographed or filmed. Since the statute does not specify that the adult must be the parent or guardian of the child, this means that any adult who allows a minor to participate in child pornography can be charged with a severe indictable crime.
What Are the Penalties for Child Pornography Offenses in NJ?
It is important to understand that prosecutors do not mess around when it comes to child pornography charges. Once a county prosecutor makes the decision to file child endangerment charges and seek a grand jury indictment, they are rarely willing to simply drop the case. Worse yet, prosecutors often pursue the top end of the sentencing range in these cases in order to send a message, and judges have a tendency to impose penalties on the higher end of the statutory sentencing range as well. This can be very bad news for you if you wind up pleading guilty or are convicted at trial on charges of possessing or distributing child pornography.
Since all child pornography charges in New Jersey are classified as felony sex crimes, the penalties include incarceration, as well as a requirement to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law. The range of possible prison time for a child pornography conviction or guilty plea is determined by the degree of the charges.
First Degree Child Pornography Charges
N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(b)(3) stipulates that a person who allows a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act that is photographed, filmed, or reproduced in any way can face first degree child pornography charges. A first degree felony in New Jersey typically carries a possible sentence of 10-20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Additionally, these types of charges come with a presumption of incarceration, which means that the offender will certainly have to serve time in prison even if they reach a plea agreement with the prosecution.
Second Degree Child Pornography Charges
As set forth by the child endangerment statute, second degree criminal charges for child pornography may be filed in two circumstances: (1) when an adult films a child engaging in a pornographic act, or (2) when an adult sells or disseminates child pornography. Second degree felony charges have a sentencing range of 5-10 years in state prison, and the judge may also impose a fine of up to $150,000. Just as with first degree child pornography charges, a second degree charge has a presumption of incarceration that basically requires the judge to sentence the offender to prison time.
Additionally, second degree charges for the distribution of child pornography come with enhanced penalties when the offense involved 25 or more photos, videos, files, or other items portraying the sexual exploitation of a minor. In other words, the more child pornography files the offender is accused of sharing on the internet, the greater the punishment that may be imposed by the judge. The same is true for repeat offenders, as the criminal statute specifically states that an individual who has a prior conviction for any child pornography offense on their record and who later commits a second or subsequent offense for distributing child pornography is subject to “an extended term of imprisonment.”
Third Degree Child Pornography Charges
The most common child pornography charge in NJ involves the possession of films, videos, or files that depict a child being sexually exploited or abused. Child pornography possession is classified as a third degree indictable offense, with the penalties including 3-5 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Although third degree felonies do not technically have a presumption of incarceration, the reality is that judges tend to impose prison sentences in these cases and rarely issue probationary sentences. This is particularly true when the offender is convicted of possessing 100 or more photographs, videos, or files that show a child being sexually exploited, or when the offender has a prior conviction for child pornography on their record.
Contact Cranford Child Pornography Defense Attorneys for Help with Your Charges
Whatever may have prompted the original investigation that resulted in your arrest on child pornography charges in Union County, NJ, the situation is now dire. Regardless of the circumstances of your particular case, the hard truth is that a conviction or guilty plea to any charge for child pornography – whether it involves possession, distribution, or filming – can absolutely destroy your present and your future. Not only will you be facing the immediate consequence of incarceration, but you will also be subject to Megan’s Law sex offender registration requirements after you have completed any prison term.
The severity of the penalties for child pornography should underscore the need for anyone facing these charges to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you challenge the evidence and contest the charges. In the best-case scenario, it may even be possible to get the child pornography charges downgraded or dismissed so that you avoid prison and can move on with your life. We have seen many of these cases before and have helped clients to mitigate the damage in towns throughout Union County and New Jersey, such as Springfield, Kenilworth, Summit, Roselle Park, Scotch Plains, and Cranford. Contact us 24/7 at (908) 838-0150 to start the process of your top defense.
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