“I know it when I see it.”
Those six words are how Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart described hard-core pornography in a concurring opinion involving the 1964 U.S. Supreme Court case Jacobellis v. Ohio.
Over time, federal and Maryland state laws have refined the definition, specifically when it comes to images of minor children. Yet, descriptions and the resulting penalties vary state-to-state, not to mention lack all-important detail. The consequences see countless wrongful pursuits by prosecutors, who levy severe and life-changing criminal accusations.
Federal law defines child pornography as “visual depictions” involving sexually explicit conduct that involves someone under the age of 18. Possession alone results in a prison sentence of 10 years. Child pornography distributed via interstate or foreign commerce – either by mail or internet – the criminal allegations are deemed a federal offense. Penalties require a minimum prison sentence of five years but no more than 20.
If the accused has prior convictions, the sentence can double.
Maryland has similar laws when compared to federal statutes. First offenses of distribution will result in up to 10 years in prison, with subsequent violations resulting in up to 20 years. Possession will result in a maximum prison term of five years. Additional convictions can result in incarceration of up to ten years.
Where Maryland differs from federal law’s age of consent at 18, state law sets the age at 16 years old. However, overall federal penalties remain much harsher.
Allegations of child pornography represent complicated and challenging aspects of criminal law, both at the state and federal levels. Retaining an attorney knowledgeable and experienced in child pornography cases is paramount in protecting rights and pursuing the best possible outcome.