In Arizona, child pornography, also known as child sexual exploitation or sexual exploitation of a minor, is defined in ARS § 13-3553 as “recording, filming, photographing, developing, or duplicating any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in exploitative exhibition or other sexual conduct.” It is a Class 2 felony that carries a minimum sentence of up to 10 years for each image you possess or distribute.

Arizona statutes also prohibit “distributing, transporting, exhibiting, receiving, selling, purchasing, electronically transmitting, possessing or exchanging any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in exploitative exhibition or other sexual conduct.”

Arizona has some of the stiffest penalties in the country when it comes to child pornography, as well as having one of the broadest definitions of what constitutes it. One Arizona defendant was actually sentenced to 200 years without the possibility of parole.

Being saddled with child pornography charges can have a lasting, negative impact on your life. Here’s what you need to know about child pornography charges in Arizona:

What is child pornography?

To simplify a rather wordy Arizona statute, the state bans three separate actions with relation to child pornography: recording, distributing and possessing. 

That is to say, if you knowingly record or photograph someone under the age of 18 engaged in sexual conduct or in a sexual pose, you can be in violation of the law. If you receive a text message or email that contains a video or picture of someone under the age of 18 engaged in sexual conduct or a sexual pose, you can be in violation of the law, even if you are under 18 yourself. If you send or forward a text message containing a photo or video of someone under the age of 18 engaged in sexual conduct or a sexual pose, you can be in violation of the law.

There are heightened penalties in Arizona if the child pictured or recorded was under the age of 15, even if you did not know their age.

What are the penalties for crimes related to child pornography?

All sex crimes are taken very seriously in Arizona, but none so much as child pornography. 

Penalties can vary based on the age of the child included in the photographs or videos.

If the child was 14 years old or younger at the time the photo or video was taken, the crime becomes a Dangerous Crimes Against Children (DCAC) in Arizona. Crimes that fall under the DCAC statute carry incredibly severe penalties, such as:

  • A minimum of ten years in prison for each and every conviction. The presumptive sentence is 17 years per conviction, with a maximum of 24 years per conviction. Remember the Arizona man sentenced to 200 years in prison? He was charged with possession of 20 images of child pornography and was sentenced to ten years per image. However, since ten years per conviction is only the minimum sentence, there is potential for a sentence to be much longer.
  • If a defendant has a prior DCAC charge or any other serious felonies on their record, those numbers above nearly double. The minimum sentence for each conviction increases from 10 to 21 years, while the presumptive sentence jumps to 28 years, and the max to 35 years.
  • If the defendant is convicted of two or more counts related to child pornography, these sentences must be served consecutively to each other, one after the other. For example, if you are sentenced to ten years per image and you are convicted of possession of two images, you must serve 20 years in prison. 
  • In addition, when a crime falls under Arizona DCAC, 100% of the prison time must be served before the defendant becomes eligible for release.

Keep in mind that in Arizona, the maximum penalty for sexual exploitation is actually heavier than the maximum penalty for second-degree murder. 

If the child was between 15 and 17, the sentence does not fall under DCAC. Possible penalties for child pornography in this case include:

  • A class 2 felony charge for the first offense. Defendants can be sentenced to probation with anywhere from no jail time to one year of jail time, or 3 years to 12 and ½ years of prison time, with no probation.
  • If the defendant has one prior felony conviction, the “prison only” range jumps from 3 years to 4, and from 12.5 years to 23 and ¼. 
  • If the defendant has two prior felony convictions, the “prison only” range becomes 10 ½ to 35 years of prison time.

Any convictions on any of the above charges will require you to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life. It will also limit contact with anyone under the age of 18, including your own children. To have any contact at all with anyone under the age of 18, registered sex offenders in Arizona must go through numerous tests and have the express consent of their Probation Officer. This can affect job prospects, education, and living situations for the rest of your life.

Federal Child Pornography Laws

Child pornography is also a federal crime, and you could be tried by a federal court if the child pornography in question ever crossed state lines, even electronically. The minimum sentence even for a first offense can be as much as 15 years in prison, as well as numerous fines. You can be charged by both state and federal courts.

Can I beat child pornography charges?

There are several viable legal defenses to child pornography, especially considering that Arizona’s broad definition of child pornography includes many relatively innocent behaviors.

The most viable and common defense to child pornography charges is that the defendant did not knowingly access child pornography. If multiple individuals had access to a computer containing child pornography, another possible defense is that nobody can ever be certain who accessed or downloaded the images.

Another common defense against child pornography is the unlawful obtainment of evidence. If you were coerced into an incriminating confession or if evidence was obtained against you during an unlawful search, that evidence may not be admissible. If the police are proved to have mishandled or tainted the evidence, that could also make that evidence inadmissible.

It is important that you do not underestimate the severity of these charges. Whether your specific offense is in reality minor or major, the penalties and strikes against you are the same. The sex offender registry does not discriminate. The stigma against anyone perceived as a sex crime offender is pervasive, especially so when there are children potentially involved.

If you are accused or suspected of child pornography in the Phoenix area, act quickly.

Contact Experienced, Phoenix-based Sex Crimes Attorney Belen Olmedo Guerra

At the Belen Law Firm, we can help you minimize or avoid the stigma associated with being accused of this crime. If you want a 24-hour criminal defense attorney, call us at 602-715-0908, or send us a message to request a free consultation. 

Call Now Button