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What penalties can Missourians face for having child pornography?

Missouri takes the creation, promotion and possession of child pornography very seriously. The term "child porn" is used when the person depicted in the pornographic materials is younger than 18. Child pornography criminal penalties can be serious. However, when the child is or even appears to be 14 or younger, the potential penalties can be even greater.

Under Missouri law, filming or photographing a person under 18 in a sexual manner, or forcing them to perform in such a manner is illegal. So is showing or selling them materials that are sexually-explicit. It should also be noted that "Promoting child porn of a minor under or appearing to be under 18" is considered "promoting child pornography in the second degree."

Penalties for child pornography-related crimes vary based on the child's age, the defendant's knowledge of that age and the type of conduct. However, most of these crimes are considered felonies. People accused of these crimes may also face civil lawsuits.

Class A felonies, which are the harshest, can carry a sentence of up to life in prison. Creating or promoting "obscene" materials that involve a child who is less or even portrays someone younger than 14 is a Class A felony.

What constitutes "obscene" materials? As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said in a 1964 ruling regarding whether a film violated an obscenity statute, "I know it when I see it." Whether material is obscene is a sexual material that an average citizen would find offensive and without scientific or serious artistic value.

It seems obvious to say that people should simply refrain from purchasing, promoting, selling or viewing child pornography. Neither should they provide or show pornographic materials to minors. However, it's not always that simple. Sometimes what may appear to be material depicting adults may include children or adults portraying people who are underage. Both sellers and buyers of this material need to be extremely cautious.

Charges involving child pornography can not only put a person behind bars, they can cost them their career, their family and their reputation. No one can argue that there shouldn't be harsh criminal penalties for people who sexually exploit children. However, with the easy access to pornography that the Internet has brought, it is easy to become an unknowing participant in such crimes. Experienced Missouri attorneys can help people facing criminal charges to minimize the consequences to their lives.

Source: FindLaw, "Missouri Child Pornography Laws" Oct. 28, 2014

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