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. Our Atlantic City child pornography possession lawyers explain.
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 New Jersey?
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.
Call Our NJ Child Pornography Defense Lawyers for a Free Consultation
If you were accused of possessing, distributing, or producing child pornography, contact an attorney immediately. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers may be able to take your case and fight to get charges for child pornography crimes and other internet crimes dropped and dismissed. For a free legal consultation, call us today at (609) 616-4956.