Is Child Pornography a Felony in New Jersey?

Crimes involving child pornography are treated very seriously across the country. Still, from state to state, the penalties for such crimes may vary depending on applicable laws.

The laws in New Jersey criminalize the possession, distribution, and production of child pornography.  This covers any sexual images, videos, photographs, or other content depicting underage children.  The penalties are severe for these crimes, but they are not technically classified as a “felony” in New Jersey.

If you were accused of a crime involving child pornography, seek assistance from our Atlantic City child pornography possession lawyers by calling the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.

Crime Grades for Felonies in New Jersey

New Jersey does not use the terms “felony” or “misdemeanor” for its crimes, which is the only reason that possession of child pornography in NJ is not considered a “felony.”  Instead, New Jersey uses the terms “disorderly persons offense” to cover crimes that are typically classified as “misdemeanors,” and it uses “indictable crimes” to cover crimes that are typically classified as “felonies.”

In any case, the penalties for indictable crimes in New Jersey always have the potential for high fines and incarceration for over a year.  Child pornography offenses, specifically, are graded as third, second, or first degree crimes.  New Jersey also has fourth degree crimes, which are the lowest level of felony offense.  Third, second, and first degree crimes grow in potential fines and length of prison sentences with first degree crimes being the highest level of crime in NJ.

Is Possession of Child Pornography a Misdemeanor or Felony in NJ?

Possession of child pornography is one of the crimes contained in N.J.S.A. § 2C:24-4.  Although this crime is entitled “endangering welfare of children,” more than half the statute instead focuses specifically on child pornography crimes.  Specific subsections of this statute deal with possession only, as opposed to distribution or production of this kind of illicit material.

Possession of child pornography in NJ is criminalized under subsection (b)(5)(b) of this statute.  Under this section, simple possession is a third degree crime.

Is Distributing or Producing Child Pornography a Felony in NJ?

Subsection (b)(4) of N.J.S.A. § 2C:24-4 makes it illegal to produce child pornography.  This includes photographs, but also the creation of any computer-generated images depicting children in sexual situations.  This is one of the most severe child pornography crimes and is classified as a first degree crime.

Subsection (b)(5)(a) of this statute makes it illegal to knowingly distribute or transfer images or videos depicting child pornography.  It also makes it illegal to possess child pornography with the intent to distribute or transfer it, which is different from the simple possession crime punished in subsection (b)(5)(b).  This is a second degree crime.

Penalties for Child Pornography Crimes in NJ

Each level of crime has basic standard penalties associated with it.  These penalties are typically codified as a maximum fine and a range of potential jail sentences.  Then, it is up to the judge to look at the facts of the case and the elements surrounding the case to determine the defendant’s final sentence.

These presumptive penalties are as follows for third, second, and first degree crimes:

  • Third degree crimes carry 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
  • Second degree crimes carry 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
  • First degree crimes carry 10-20 years in prison and fines up to $200,000.

These child pornography crimes increase in severity based on the amount of direct harm to children.  Production of child pornography directly abuses children, so it is the crime with the highest penalties.  Distributing or selling child pornography is the next most severe crime because it spreads the depictions of abuse and inspires a market for additional instances of abuse.  While simple possession of the images does not directly harm children, it still inspires a market for these images or videos and gives others the opportunity to continue abusing children.

In addition to these penalties, there are also other penalties you could face.  Registration as a sex offender is common for many child pornography crimes.  Judges may also institute bans on your computer use during any periods of probation or parole to limit the potential of reoffending.

Can Minors Be Charged with Felonies for Child Pornography Crimes in NJ?

These statutes are designed to protect minors from abuse by making it illegal for adults to create pornography with them, distribute that pornography to other adults, or possess the illicit material.  However, the way the statute is written, it also makes it illegal for minors to produce, distribute, or possess nude or illicit photos of minors.

Even if a minor takes a nude photograph of another minor – or a nude photograph of themself – they could be charged with production of child pornography in New Jersey.  Moreover, sending that photo to someone else – whether they are a minor or not – could also be distribution of child pornography.  Lastly, having that picture – whether they can prove you produced it or not – would constitute possession of child pornography.

There is no guaranteed way that a minor can avoid criminal charges for these kinds of acts, even if they took the photos themselves.  However, minors are not typically charged with felonies – or “indictable crimes” under New Jersey’s terminology.  Instead, juvenile charges might be issued, and the case may be adjudicated in the juvenile criminal justice system in NJ, which uses different penalties and seals records of minors accused of crimes rather than sending them to prison through the adult system.

Examples of Felonious Conduct Involving Child Pornography in New Jersey

In child pornography cases, there are several different types of felonious conduct that can be persecuted. For instance, if you commit any of the following, then you may be facing penalties for an indictable crime:

Possession of Child Pornography

One prevalent indictable offense is the possession of child pornography. Individuals may face charges if they possess, view, or control material that depicts a child engaging in sexually explicit conduct. The severity of the charges can vary based on factors such as the quantity of materials involved and the age of the depicted child.

Distribution and Dissemination

Distribution or dissemination of child pornography is another serious indictable crime. This offense involves sharing, transmitting, or distributing materials that depict minors engaged in explicit sexual activities. Charges can escalate if the accused is found to be involved in the production or trafficking of such materials.

Production of Child Pornography

The production of child pornography involves creating, recording, or producing any visual material that depicts a minor engaging in sexual conduct. This is a particularly grave indictable offense, and individuals charged with this crime may face severe legal consequences, including lengthy prison sentences.

Possession with Intent to Distribute

Possessing child pornography with the intent to distribute is a distinct indictable offense. This charge may be applied if there is evidence suggesting that an individual not only possessed such materials but also intended to share or sell them to others.

Online Exploitation and Solicitation

With the rise of the internet, online exploitation and solicitation of minors for explicit content have become prevalent. Individuals engaging in online activities to exploit or solicit minors for sexual purposes may face serious indictable charges in New Jersey.

Aggravating Factors and Enhanced Penalties

In some cases, aggravating factors, such as the use of force or coercion, may result in enhanced penalties for child pornography offenses. Courts may consider factors that exacerbate the seriousness of the crime and impose harsher sentences because of these aggravating circumstances.

Defending Against Felony Charges for Child Pornography in New Jersey

A strategic defense is required to fight against an indictable crime charge involving child pornography. Thankfully, there are multiple potential defenses that you may utilize. After your free case review, our New Jersey child pornography defense attorneys can determine if any of the following may be useful to you:

Insufficient Evidence

One common defense is to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence. This involves scrutinizing the prosecution’s case to identify any weaknesses, inconsistencies, or lack of substantial proof. If there are doubts about the authenticity or reliability of the evidence presented, it can be a critical point of defense.

Unlawful Search and Seizure

Defendants may assert that the evidence was obtained through an unlawful search and seizure. If law enforcement violated the accused’s Fourth Amendment rights during the investigation, such as conducting a search without a proper warrant or probable cause, it could lead to the suppression of evidence.

Lack of Knowledge or Intent

Proving knowledge and intent is crucial in child pornography cases. A defense strategy may involve demonstrating that the accused did not knowingly possess, distribute, or produce child pornography. Establishing a lack of intent to engage in illegal activities can be a powerful defense.

False Accusations or Mistaken Identity

Defendants may argue that they have been falsely accused or that there is a case of mistaken identity. This defense asserts that the accused was not the person involved in the alleged criminal activities or that the accusations are entirely baseless.


Entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces an individual to commit a crime they would not have otherwise committed. If the accused can demonstrate that they were coerced or persuaded by law enforcement to engage in child pornography-related activities, it may serve as a viable defense.

Chain of Custody Issues

Challenging the chain of custody of evidence is another defense tactic. If there are gaps or inconsistencies in how the evidence was handled, stored, or transferred from one party to another, it may cast doubt on the reliability and integrity of the evidence.

Constitutional Challenges

Defendants may also challenge the constitutionality of certain aspects of the law under which they are charged. This could involve arguing that specific provisions infringe upon their constitutional rights and should be deemed invalid.

Registering as a Sex Offender After Being Charged with a Felony for Child Pornography in New Jersey

As previously mentioned, individuals convicted of child pornography offenses in New Jersey are subject to a rigorous sex offender registration process, with long-term implications that extend far beyond the completion of their sentence. The registration process involves several key steps.

Firstly, upon a conviction, the court mandates the defendant to register as a sex offender. The registration typically includes personal information such as name, address, date of birth, and details about the specific offense. This information is collected to create a comprehensive database accessible to law enforcement and, in some cases, the public.

The convicted individual is required to periodically update their information, providing details about their residence, employment, and any changes in personal circumstances. Failure to comply with these reporting requirements can result in additional legal consequences.

Potential Long-Term Implications of Registering as a Sex Offender After a Child Pornography Felony Conviction in New Jersey

Being listed on the sex offender registry can have profound and enduring consequences for individuals convicted of child pornography crimes. For example, these long-term implications may include:

Public Notification

Convicted individuals may face public notification, where their information is made available to the community. This can lead to stigmatization, social ostracism, and potential damage to personal and professional relationships.

Employment Challenges

Registration as a sex offender often leads to significant challenges in securing and maintaining employment. Many employers conduct background checks, and the presence on the registry can limit career opportunities.

Housing Restrictions

Individuals on the sex offender registry may encounter restrictions on where they can live. Certain residency restrictions may prohibit them from residing near schools, parks, or other places where children congregate.

Call Our NJ Child Pornography Defense Lawyers for a Free Consultation

Seek guidance and support from our New Jersey child pornography defense attorneys by calling the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.

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