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Possession of Child Pornography

Possession of child pornography is a serious crime in Massachusetts, and one that carries severe penalties. It involves possessing any pornography depicting individuals under the age of 18 engaged in sexual activity. This includes videos, photographs, magazines and other visual materials of a pornographic nature featuring minors.

Although this charge carries fewer penalties than creating or distributing pornography, it can still carry significant legal ramifications in terms of fines, jail time and even sex-offender status. Those found guilty of this charge may also face public ostracism and find it difficult to find work or housing.


In this article, we will define possession of child pornography, including the elements of the crime that the Commonwealth must prove, potential punishments if convicted, and lay out some potential defenses to the charge.


How Does Massachusetts Define Possession of Child Pornography ?

In Massachusetts, possession of child pornography is defined by Massachusetts General Laws chapter 272 section 29C. It involves the knowing possession of any visual material such as a negative, slide, book, magazine, film, videotape, photograph or other similar visual reproduction, or depiction by computer, of any child whom the person knows or reasonably should know to be under the age of 18 years of age engaged in sexual activity, or that the imagery of the minor is of a sexual nature.

What are the Penalties for Possession of Child Pornography in Massachusetts?

For a first offense:

Up to 5 years in State Prison, or up to 2½ years in jail or House of Correction and/or

$1,000 - 10,000 fine.

For a second offense:

Not less than 5 years in State Prison and/or

$5,000 - $20,000 in fines.

For a third and subsequent offense:

Not less than 10 years in state prison and/or

$10,000 - $30,000 in fines.

What Are the Legal and Social Consequences of a Conviction?

A conviction for possession of child pornography can bring serious legal and social consequences, many of which can last long after the punishment has been served. The guilty party may face hefty fines, jail or prison time as well as public ostracism from their community. This can make it difficult to find work or housing with a criminal record. In addition, person found guilty may be designated a sex offender and required to register with the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry, where their profile may be published online. This public record can have far-reaching implications for a person's reputation, employment and personal life for years to come.


These are only some of the legal and social consequences that can arise from criminal possession of child pornography, so it is important to speak with an experienced lawyer if you have been charged with this crime. An attorney can help you understand all the potential consequences and protect your legal rights at every step of the process.


It is also important to remember that anyone facing a charge of criminal possession of child pornography should be viewed as innocent until proven guilty. Everyone deserves vigorous legal representation and a chance to tell their side of the story.

Common Defenses Against Accusations of Child Pornography Possession

If you or someone you know has been accused of possession of child pornography, it is important to understand the various defenses that may be available. Apart from ensuring that the evidence was gathered by law enforcement legally, one common defense is lack of knowledge or intent to possess; in other words, the fact that the accused did not know they were in possession of pornography material, or that they did not intend to possess such material. Without proof of knowledge and intent to possess pornography, the accused would not be found guilty according to the law.


Another common defense is evidence that someone else must have acquired the material. If the accused can prove that another person had access to their computer or device, it is possible that the other person could be held responsible for downloading the material and not the person accused.


A third defense is that the pornography in question is not sexual in nature. In order to be convicted in Massachusetts, the material in question must be depicted in a sexual context. A famous example of this would be the "Nevermind" album from the band Nirvana. On the album cover is an image of a naked infant in a swimming pool with his genitalia exposed. Because the image is not sexual in nature, no criminal charges were ever brought against the band or their record label.


Possession of child pornography is a serious crime with potentially severe legal and social consequences. It is important to understand the potential defenses that may be available if you or someone you know has been accused of this offense, such as lack of knowledge or intent to possess the material in question, evidence another person was responsible for downloading it, or proof that the material isn’t sexual in nature. If faced with these charges, seek experienced legal representation immediately so your rights are protected throughout the process.


If you or someone you know has been charged with possession of child pornography, call us at (978) 744-1220 or fill out our contact form today for a free case evaluation. We will sit down with you, read the police report, get your side of the story, and give you our opinion as to what your best course of action is and how your case is likely to fare in court. We are very experienced in the factual and legal intricacies that these cases involve. If retained, we will immediately go to work developing a legal strategy to aggressively defend your case.

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