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Child Pornography Laws in Texas

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Texas Laws on Child Pornography

Internet access and mobile devices have made pornographic content available 24/7 to nearly anyone who wants to view such material. While there may be cultural attitudes that view this content in a negative light, there are generally no laws prohibiting it as long as everyone involved is over the age of 18. However, when pornographic images of minors are created or distributed, the law takes a firm stance when it comes to prosecuting those responsible.

Any type of sexual image depicting minors under the age of 18 is strictly illegal. With that being said, there are some rules regarding the application of these laws.

The Definition of the Crime

To put it clearly, any material which consists of a visual depiction of a person who is under 18 years of age engaging in sexual activity can be considered child pornography. Chapter 43 of the Texas Penal Code makes it a crime to do any of the following:

Some very specific terms are used in this legal definition. For example, a visual image refers to:

  • Any film, photograph, videotape, slide, negative or photographic reproduction
  • Any disk or physical storage medium that can display an image on a computer screen
  • Any image that can be transmitted to a computer screen by a phone line or cable

Basically, any image of a minor under 18 engaging in sexual activity is illegal, with no exceptions. In legal terms, “sexual conduct” refers to:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Simulated sexual intercourse
  • Deviate sexual intercourse, such as oral sex
  • Masturbation
  • Sadomasochistic abuse
  • Lewd display of the genitals, anus or female breasts

Legal Examples

For the purposes of the law, nudity itself is not prohibited. For example, an art museum may display a painting of a minor under age 18 who is depicted nude without violating the law. This is because this depiction may not be considered lewd or explicit.

However, if a person produces a painting or drawing of a minor having sex, that may be considered child pornography. Even if the image does not depict an actual living person, the possession or distribution of any explicit sexual depiction of a child is grounds for prosecution and conviction.

For example, John is having a family barbecue and his three children are splashing in a pool. One of his children sneaks up behind his younger sister and pulls down her bathing suit. John is filming the event on his camcorder and captures the entire scene. John is not guilty of possession of child pornography because the visual depiction is not sexual, explicit or lewd, although it did depict nudity of a minor.

In another example, Marco is in his twenties but he has been talking to a sixteen-year-old girl in his neighborhood. They exchange phone numbers one day. One night, Marco receives a text message from the girl with an attached picture of her exposed breasts. Marco is breaking the law because he is in possession of an image displaying lewd nudity of a minor. Though the image doesn’t actually depict sexual intercourse, it’s still illegal because it shows an underage girl displaying her breasts for a lewd purpose.

Legal Penalties

Possession or promotion of child pornography is a felony of the third degree in the state of Texas. This means that it is punishable by:

  • Up to ten years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

In addition, a conviction for this offense may be grounds for mandatory enrollment in the sex offender registry. This registration may last for 10 years after the date of parole from prison or for the remainder of the registrant’s life.

Legal Defenses

It’s a crime to possess child pornography in Texas but the prosecution must prove that such possession took place knowingly and intentionally to secure a conviction.

For example, in the scenario from earlier, Marco did not necessarily have the intent to possess an illegal image. If he did not ask for it or encourage it, the defense may be able to show that he didn’t seek out this material. The defense may be able to have the teenage girl testify to the fact that Marco did not ask her to send the image. This evidence may prevent a conviction.

In another example, in a custody dispute, Alex secretly puts pornographic images of minors onto his wife’s computer and calls the police. In court, his wife’s attorney argues that she did not knowingly have the images on her computer because she did not put them there. This may also prevent a conviction.

Anyone who is facing charges of child pornography in Texas should consult an attorney as soon as possible.


Are you or someone you know facing child pornography charges? You need to contact a tough, aggressive lawyer as soon as possible. Attorney Brett Podolsky can help protect your rights in the complex legal system. Contact his office today at 713-227-0087.

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