18 Sep 23

18 U.S.C. § 2252 – Certain activities relating to material involving sexual exploitation of minors

| by

Last Updated on: 26th September 2023, 05:27 pm

18 U.S.C. § 2252 – Certain Activities Relating to Material Involving Sexual Exploitation of Minors

18 U.S.C. § 2252 is a federal law that prohibits certain activities related to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors. This law makes it illegal to knowingly transport, receive, distribute, reproduce, sell, possess, or access child pornography that has traveled through interstate or foreign commerce. Let’s break down what this law covers and the penalties for violating it.

What Does 18 U.S.C. § 2252 Prohibit?

There are a few key activities that 18 U.S.C. § 2252 makes illegal:

  • Transporting, shipping, receiving, distributing, or reproducing child pornography through interstate or foreign commerce
  • Selling or possessing child pornography that has been shipped or transported through interstate or foreign commerce
  • Knowingly accessing child pornography with intent to view it

This law applies to any visual depiction of a minor (someone under 18) engaged in sexually explicit conduct. This includes photographs, films, videos, pictures, digital images, and computer-generated images. The law also bans altered images that appear to depict minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

What Are the Penalties for Violating This Law?

Violating 18 U.S.C. §:

  • Transporting, distributing, receiving, or reproducing child porn: 5-20 years in prison and fines
  • Selling or possessing child porn: Up to 10 years in prison and fines
  • Accessing child porn with intent to view: Up to 10 years in prison and fines

Penalties increase if the offender has prior convictions for child sex crimes or for violating this law. There are also enhanced penalties if the child pornography depicts violence, sadism, masochism, or young children under age 12.

What Are Some Defenses to 18 U.S.C. § 2252 Charges?

There are a few potential defenses that a skilled criminal defense lawyer may use to fight 18 U.S.C. § 2252 charges:

  • You did not “knowingly” transport, receive, distribute, reproduce, sell, possess or access the child pornography. This requires proving you were unaware of the illicit nature of the material.
  • The images do not meet the definition of “sexually explicit conduct” under federal law. This argues the material was not pornographic.
  • The visual depictions were not of real minors. This argues they were computer-generated images of fictional characters.
  • You possessed less than three illicit images, which provides an affirmative defense in some cases.

An experienced attorney can analyze the evidence and determine if any of these defenses may apply in your case.

How Are 18 U.S.C. § 2252 Cases Investigated and Prosecuted?

Child pornography crimes are aggressively investigated and prosecuted at both the state and federal level. Here is how these cases typically unfold:

  • Cases often begin with investigations by the FBI, ICE, or other agencies that track online distribution of child porn.
  • Investigators use surveillance tools to trace downloads and uploads of illicit material to a suspect’s IP address.
  • Agents raid the physical address associated with the IP address and seize computers, phones, external drives, and other devices.
  • Forensic experts analyze the seized devices for any evidence of child pornography.
  • If child porn is found, the suspect is arrested and charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 2252 and related laws.
  • Defendants face harsh sentences if convicted due to mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines.

These cases can build slowly over months or years before law enforcement finally moves in to make an arrest. Once charged, the cases move swiftly through the federal criminal justice system. Quickly hiring an experienced defense lawyer is critical.

What Are Some Examples of 18 U.S.C. § 2252 Cases?

Here are a few real-world examples of 18 U.S.C. § 2252 cases:

  • A man was sentenced to 8 years in prison for distributing child pornography images and videos through a peer-to-peer file sharing network. Forensic analysis of his computers revealed he possessed over 600 illicit images and videos of minors.[1]
  • A former middle school teacher was convicted of accessing child pornography over the internet. An undercover agent in an online chat room traced transmissions of child porn to the man’s IP address. Forensic analysis found over 100 images on his devices.[2]
  • A man was sentenced to 5 years in prison for receiving and possessing child pornography. ICE agents conducting an online investigation discovered he was distributing child porn images in a Kik chat. Over 1,000 illegal images were found on his phone.[3]

These real cases illustrate how violators of 18 U.S.C. § 2252 are identified through online investigations and face years in prison if convicted.

What Should You Do If You Are Facing Charges?

Being charged with crimes related to 18 U.S.C. § 2252 can completely devastate your life. Here are some steps to take if you are under investigation or have been arrested:

  • Remain silent and avoid speaking to investigators until you have legal counsel.
  • Hire an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible.
  • Follow your lawyer’s advice about whether to participate in police interviews.
  • Your lawyer can analyze the evidence and determine the best legal defense.
  • Make sure your attorney has experience with computer forensics in child porn cases.
  • Be proactive and seek counseling, which courts may view favorably.
  • Entering a plea deal may potentially reduce charges and penalties.

With an aggressive legal defense, some charges related to 18 U.S.C. § 2252 can be reduced or dismissed. But it is critical to act fast and get legal help right away.

The Bottom Line

18 U.S.C. § 2252 is a serious federal law that prohibits activities related to child pornography. Violations carry lengthy prison sentences and severe consequences. If you are being investigated or charged, immediately consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An effective legal defense strategy can be the difference between prison time and preserving your freedom.