Child pornography is a serious crime. Illegal in the entire United States, the penalties can be harsh. While there are several, separate statutes in the state of Minnesota regarding this crime, statute 617.247 is the one that lays out the rules and punishments for the possession of child pornography. If you find yourself caught up in a case dealing with this crime, there are some things you should know in order to maintain your defense.
Understanding Statute 617.247
The statute, found on the state’s revisor, states that it is illegal to possess any pornographic work on any medium where a minor is performing a real or simulated sex act. However, the possession is qualified by the language, “knowing or with reason to know its content or character.”
This is an important line in the law, as it makes it clear it is not just possession, but knowing possession of child pornography that breaks the law. Similar to the possession of stolen goods, the person being charged with the possession of child pornography has to know what it is they have, otherwise they couldn’t have known what they had was illegal.
Also, while it should go without saying, the law also spells out that police officers, medical professionals, court officials, and others engaged in professional duties are exempt from the possession statute, as possessing (and even viewing) these materials is often something that has to be done in the execution of their duties.
What Are The Defenses To Possession of Child Pornography?
The affirmative defense outlined in the statute itself is that if all persons appearing in a pornographic work were 18 or older at the time the work was created, then it clearly is not child pornography. It seems obvious, but this is the reason why many pornographers will have clearly indicated warnings before their films, or on their sites, stating the true age of performers in the work, even if the characters or personas they take on in the work claim to be below the legal age of sexual consent.
As stated above, ignorance of the character of the work is also a defense against a charge of possession of child pornography. If you have a CD, for example, but you’ve never looked at what’s on it, then there is no way you could have known it was full of child pornography. The same is true if there is a computer in your home, but it isn’t yours and you don’t know the password to access it.
Something that is not a defense against a charge of possession of child pornography, however, is consent. Even if a minor, or the minor’s parents or guardians, gave consent for the work to be made, that does not make it legal to possess. Just as a minor giving consent doesn’t make it legal for an adult to have sex with them, it doesn’t make it legal to possess any media where a minor participates in simulated or genuine sex acts.
In the state of Minnesota, punishment for a first offense of possession of child pornography is a sentence of not more than 5 years, and not more than $5,000 in a fine. A second offense is a sentence of not more than 10 years, and not more than a $10,000 fine.
This punishment can be exacerbated, though. If someone is on a predatory registry, then that can lead to steeper punishment. Additionally, if a second violation occurs within 15 years of the first, then the offender will also have to undergo mandatory psychiatric evaluation by a court-appointed physician.
Charles R. Segal, of Segal Defense, P.A., Has Over 20 Years Defending Minnesota Clients. Charles has handled over a thousand DWI, Traffic, Misdemeanor, and Felony Cases.