Child Pornography Laws in Missouri: Know Your Rights

The charge of child pornography is especially serious, and a conviction can be life-altering. If you are facing a child pornography charge or are concerned that such a charge may be pending, it’s time to consult with an experienced Missouri criminal defense attorney.

Understanding Child Pornography in Missouri

Under Missouri child pornography laws, the possession, promotion, or creation of pornographic materials involving a child who is under the age of 18 is against the law. This includes all the following in relation to those under the age of 18:

  • They can’t be photographed, filmed, or made to perform in any sexual manner.
  • They can’t be made to watch a sexual performance.
  • They can’t be shown or sold any sexually explicit content or obscene materials – including online.

The distinguishing factor when it comes to determining whether content qualifies as pornography or not is that the average person would consider it offensive and lacking in serious scientific or artistic value. If the obscene content in question depicts sexual conduct, performance, or contact that involves someone under the age of 18 – either as a participant or as a portrayed observer – it’s considered child pornography and is illegal.

Possession of Child Pornography

The charge of possession applies when an individual is knowingly or recklessly in possession of pornography depicting a minor who is not yet 18 or who appears to be younger than 18. The charge for possession of one still image is a Class D felony, but a prior conviction, possession of more than 20 still images, or possession of a film or video elevates the charge to a Class B felony.

Promotion of Child Pornography 

The charge of promoting child pornography involves selling or otherwise distributing child pornography to an adult or distributing adult pornography to a minor.

Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

The charge of sexual exploitation of a minor is a form of child exploitation that refers to having any involvement in any aspect of the child pornography creation process, including doing the filming or taking the pictures.

Penalties for Child Pornography in Missouri

Child pornography penalties are consistently harsh, but they vary in accordance with the circumstances.

Possession

Possession of underage pornography in the form of a still photo is a Class D felony, but any of the following can elevate the charge to a Class B felony:

  • Possession of more than 20 still photos
  • Possession of a motion picture, film, videotape, or another kind of moving image
  • A prior child pornography conviction

A conviction for a Class D felony includes up to 7 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. A Class B felony conviction, on the other hand, carries a prison sentence of from 5 to 15 years.

Promotion

The promotion of child pornography to an adult is generally a Class C felony, which carries up to 7 years behind bars and fines of up to $10,000. Purposefully promoting child pornography to a minor or the promotion of obscene material that includes a child under the age of 14, however, is the promotion of child pornography in the first degree, which is a Class B felony and carries 5 to 15 years in prison.

Knowingly promoting child pornography in the first degree to a minor boosts the charge to a Class A felony, which comes with a sentence of from 10 years to life behind bars. It’s also important to note that those convicted of promoting child pornography in the first degree are not eligible for probation, parole, or conditional release until they’ve served at least three years of their sentences.

Sexual Exploitation

The charge of sexual exploitation of a minor is a Class B felony, and a conviction carries 5 to 15 years in prison. If the obscene material in question involves a child who is under the age of 14, however, the charge is elevated to a Class A felony, which can lead to a sentence of 10 years to life. Anyone convicted of the sexual exploitation of a minor is required to enroll in Missouri’s sex offender registry, which serves to inform the public about potential sexual predators.  

Defenses to Child Pornography Charges in Missouri

Facing a child pornography charge is extremely stressful, and you may have no idea how to protect yourself. While your case will be specific to the unique circumstances involved, there are several common defense categories to consider.

Accidental or Unintentional Possession

It is possible to possess child pornography without being aware of its existence. For example, if someone else has access to your computer, it may contain files that you’re unaware of. It’s also possible to accidentally download content that – unbeknownst to you – is actually child pornography. In such cases, demonstrating that you weren’t aware of the illegal content in question is key.

Entrapment

The police sometimes engage in sting operations that are designed to ensnare as many people as possible with the least effort. When such an operation encourages someone to commit a crime they otherwise wouldn’t have – such as downloading child pornography – it can cross the line into entrapment, which does not hold up in court.

Illegal Search and Seizure

We all have important Fourth Amendment rights that protect us from illegal search and seizure, and when these rights are violated, it can seriously weaken any related criminal cases. In order to convict you of illegal activity of any kind, the state needs evidence, and evidence that’s obtained illegally can’t be used against you. The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches, which are searches made without probable cause related to our persons, papers, and effects.

It’s Not Child Porn

To qualify as child pornography, there are specific elements that must be met, and if the materials in question don’t qualify, the state won’t prevail. For example, if the people depicted in the content in question were all at least 18 years old at the time its creation, it’s not child pornography. The same is true of material that has a legitimate medical, scientific, or educational purpose.

False Accusation

Someone else may have framed you for child pornography or have falsely accused you of the crime, which requires a robust defense. False accusations can prove quite powerful, which makes it important to work closely with a seasoned child pornography defense attorney from the outset.

When it comes to child pornography charges, your future hangs in the balance, which makes having a solid defense strategy that’s based on solid evidence critical, and for that, you need focused legal guidance. A savvy child pornography defense attorney will help you build your strongest defense – in pursuit of your case’s best possible resolution.  

Don’t Chance It: Consult an Experienced Missouri Criminal Defense Attorney about Your Case

Child pornography charges are serious charges that can seriously affect your future. Having a formidable Missouri child pornography defense attorney in your corner is always well-advised, and Paul O’Rourke at The O’Rourke Law Firm in O’Fallon is standing by to help. We have reserves of experience successfully guiding complex child pornography cases toward favorable resolutions, and we’re on your side. To learn more about what we can do to help you, please don’t wait to contact or call us at 636-323-5010 today.

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