Legal Question: “I’ve been accidentally exposed to child pornography on my computer, but immediately closed the browser, deleted the images and wiped my browser caches/history. Can I still be charged with a Child Pornography or Endangering the Welfare of a Child violation?”

What Constitutes an Offense for Viewing Child Pornography?

It is a third degree crime for a person to knowingly possess or view any photograph, film video tape, computer program or file, or any other production or reconstruction which depicts a child engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act, including on the Internet.

For this offense, the term “possess” includes receiving, viewing, or having under one’s control, through any means, including the Internet. It is also essential that the statute requires a mens rea, or “guilty mind,” in order to be found guilty of the offense. In this case, the standard is that the person viewing, streaming, or watching the illicit child pornography material must have known, or “should have known,” that the material was that of an actual child engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act.

Sentencing for Watching, Streaming, or Viewing Child Pornography

Where a person is convicted of this offense and it involved 100 or more items depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child, the court must impose a sentence of imprisonment. Moreover, a person convicted of a second or subsequent this for this offense must be sentenced to an extended term of imprisonment. For aggregation purposes, each depiction of the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child is considered a separate item, and each individual act of distribution of an item depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child is considered a separate item. This means that you can face a separate endangering charge for every single picture that exists on your computer, iCloud, etc, whether or not you intended to save the image at all.

Jail Time for Watching, Possessing or Viewing Child Pornography

If you or someone you love are facing first or second degree charges for child pornography, there is a substantial risk of being sentenced to serious prison terms. If convicted of a first degree offense, the court will have the option to sentence to upwards of twenty (20) years in a State Penitentiary on each count, and even more for violations of the Federal “Sexual Exploitation of Children” statute pursuant to the sentencing guidelines of 18 U.S. Code § 3553. Similarly, a second degree offense carries up to ten (10) years in prison. These penalties will be enhanced if the defendant’s prior criminal record involves earlier child pornography charges, pursuant to the guidelines.

Federal and New Jersey Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Child Pornography charges can amount to substantial and enhanced jail sentences, many times being aggregated due to the enhancement factors of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. If you or a loved on is charged with viewing or possessing child pornography, it is best to contact an attorney immediately to ensure that any sentence received is proportional to the offense actually committed, if any. Contact us at 1 (800) 879-9087 to speak to an attorney in a free, confidential case assessment.