Possessing, distributing, or producing child pornography in Illinois can have serious consequences. Allegations of child pornography are not taken lightly by law enforcement. If you are accused of a child porn related crime you could face prosecution by state, federal, and international agencies. Child pornography laws exist to protect children from the dangers associated with the porn industry, human sex trafficking, and prostitution.
While some people who engage in child porn consumption do so willingly and purposefully, it is possible to land in serious legal trouble for innocent behavior. For example, it is possible to be charged with possession or distribution of child porn for simply opening or forwarding an unassuming link in an email from a co-worker or friend if that link happens to send you to a site containing child porn.
If you are arrested and/or charged on child pornography charges in Illinois is it important to contact an experienced Chicago child porn defense attorney immediately. Whether you made an honest mistake or actively participated in the consumption, distribution, or creation of child pornography, an attorney can help to ensure that your legal rights are protected and work with the prosecution to limit the damage a simple mistake may cost you.
Child Pornography Laws
Child pornography involves the depiction of individuals under the age of 18 engaging in activities of a sexual nature, or engaging in lewd or erotic behavior intended to arouse or sexually gratify the audience. Illinois codifies its child pornography laws in 720 ILCS 5/11-20.1. The statute makes it illegal to engage in a number of behaviors related to the consumption, distribution, and creation of child pornography. Child pornography charges in Illinois include:
- Filming, videotaping, photographing a child engaging in sexual acts, knowing the child is under the age of 18;
- Reproducing, disseminating, exhibiting, or possessing visual depictions of sexually-explicit or suggestive images of individuals, knowing (or should know) the individual is under the age of 18;
- Soliciting, enticing, or encouraging a person under the age of 18 to engage in child pornography; and
- Allowing a child or stepchild to engage in child pornography.
Behaviors that may result in charges of child pornography include:
- Producing child pornography for purchase or distribution online;
- Downloading or sending pornographic materials depicting a child online;
- Sending sexually explicit and/or suggestive texts or emails to a minor;
- Encouraging a minor to send sexually explicit and/or suggestive texts or emails; and
- Purchasing online subscriptions to pornography websites that contain material depicting children in sexually-suggestive acts or poses.
Are There Any Defenses to Child Pornography Charges?
There is one defense to child pornography charges in Illinois. State law provides an affirmative defense – meaning that a person charged with possession, distribution, or creation of child pornography would have to admit to the allegations against them, with the caveat that they did not know – and could not have reasonably known – that the individual in the pornographic material was under the age of 18.
720 ILCS 11-20.1(b)(1) states that an affirmative defense may be asserted if a defendant “reasonably believed, under all of the circumstances, that the child was 18 years of age or older…prior to the act or acts giving rise to [the] prosecution…he or she took some affirmative action or made a bona fide inquiry designed to ascertain whether the child was 18 years of age or older…and his or her reliance upon the information so obtained was clearly reasonable.”
So, you may assert an affirmative defense if (1) you reasonably believed the child to be 18 or older at the time of the act(s), (2) you took steps to make some kind of inquiry or investigation, and (3) your reliance on the inquiry was reasonable.
Penalties for Child Pornography Offenses
Child pornography is a serious crime and can have serious repercussions. Conduct outlined in Illinois’ child pornography statute is punishable as felony offenses. The specific degree to which the criminal offense may be charged depends on the circumstances of the crime and acts the defendant engaged in. A major factor in determining the degree of the offense involves whether the child pornography involved moving depictions of sexually explicit or suggestive behavior.
- Producing or disseminating child pornography – not involving film, video, and moving depictions is a Class 1 Felony, punishable by 4-15 years in prison.
- Producing or disseminating child pornography – involving film, video, and moving depictions is a Class X Felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. In some cases, a defendant may face a sentence of up to 60 years in prison for this offense.
- Possession of child pornography – not involving film, video, and moving depictions is a Class 3 Felony, punishable by 2-5 years in prison.
- Possession of child pornography – involving film, video, and moving depictions is a Class 2 Felony, punishable by 3-7 years in prison.
Each count of child pornography is also punishable by a minimum fine of $2,000 and a maximum fine up to $100,000.
Mandatory Sex Offender Registration After Child Pornography Convictions
If you are convicted of the felony offense of child pornography or aggravated child pornography you will be deemed to be a sexual predator and required to register with the state Sex Offender Registration. Being a registered sex offender can seriously affect your ability to go about a normal life. Consequences of registering as a sex offender after a child pornography conviction in Illinois may include:
- Restrictions on where you may live – sex offenders may not reside within 500 feet of a school absent express approval of the superintendent;
- Restrictions on the ability to use social media during probation, parole, or other supervisory release;
- Inability to access parks;
- Posting of public sex offender profile on local law enforcement website;
- Mandatory annual check-ins conducted by local law enforcement; and
- Requirements to keep local law enforcement apprised of any changes in address or other important information.
Conviction on felony child pornography charges – and subsequent sex offender registration – may also have negative ancillary consequences. Landlords, employers, and creditors who opt to run a background check on any applications you may submit in the future will see your conviction and registration, and may choose to deny your request for a new apartment, job, or loan.
Experienced Chicago Child Pornography Defense Attorneys
If you or someone you know has been arrested and/or charged with a child pornography crime in Illinois, you should contact a Chicago child pornography attorney as soon as possible to begin crafting a defense. Just because you have been arrested and charged does not mean that you will be convicted. Illinois does not take child pornography cases lightly and will aggressively prosecute those accused of the crime.
Enlisting the assistance of an experienced Chicago child pornography defense attorney will increase your chances of reducing the penalties you may face. Contact the skilled Chicago child pornography defense attorneys at Kostopolous Law Group today for a free consultation to learn about how we may be able to help you fight the charges pending against you.