Sight Crime: The Complexity of Federal Child Pornography & Obscenity Laws

Very informative article By Derek Logue, a must read for people, caught up in in the criminal justice system.


The intent of this article is to provide an overview and assist the reader in understanding the often confusing federal Child Pornography (CP) statutes, focusing primarily on the charge of CP possession. Current Federal guidelines can, at times, consider even fully clothed children as child pornography if the picture is deemed lascivious, age inappropriate, or obscene; however, there are times when even nude pictures of children are not considered CP, such as medical or historical pictures, or other representations of literary or artistic value. So-called “virtual CP” can also lead to obscenity charges under certain circumstances, but not child porn charges because no real minors were used to create the images. A person may be convicted under the harsher “child pornography” statutes, which are registrable offenses, or may be convicted under federal “obscenity” charges, which are not registrable offenses. Current tests for determining whether an image violates federal CP or obscenity laws tend to be vague and demands the juror or judge “think like a pedophile.”

This article is not intended to substitute for legal advice for CP defense. State Statutes may differ vastly from the federal statutes and the arguments used in this article should not be assumed to apply equally to child pornography statutes in your state. The best advice is to check the statutes in your state and consult a specialist in this field to determine if an image you stumble upon is illegal. For your own safety, I advise to follow the mantra, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Please note: This article focuses of the Federal definitions of child pornography and obscenity; individual states may deviate on the definitions of child pornography and obscenity. Furthermore, some states may count obscenity-related charges as registerable offenses. Please keep that in mind as you read this report.

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