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If I am Convicted of California Child Pornography in Riverside County, Will I Have to Register as a Sex Offender?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Apr 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

The answer is yes. Anyone convicted of violating any of California's child pornography laws is required to register under California's sex offender registration law.

At first glance, this appears to make sense. One of the reasons we have a sex offender registration law is to protect children from sexual violence. A person convicted of a child pornography crime in California probably has a sexual interest in children or teenagers and should be on the registry.

But this reasoning falls apart when you look into the specific statutes that make up California's child pornography laws. These laws punish people who possess or create child pornography, presumably for their own pleasure. But various sub-sections of Penal Code 311 PC also punish people who:

  • Transport child pornography with intent to distribute it;
  • Develop or process child pornography, with or without intent to distribute it;
  • Advertise child pornography; or
  • Recruit minors to participate in the production of child pornography.

The fact of the matter is that child pornography can be a profitable business. Many of the people involved in it may have no sexual interest in minors themselves--but they need to make a living and are drawn into these activities for that reason.

Take the owner of a struggling photo shop. S/he may decide to take a "no questions asked" approach and develop or print sexual photos of young teenagers for clients in order to keep his/her shop in business. Under Penal Code 311.3 PC, s/he would be guilty of a child pornography offense--and required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his/her life (in addition to other penalties for this misdemeanor offense). 

Certainly a law that distinguished between child pornography defendants who are motivated by sexual gratification and those who are motivated by profit would be much more fair than the current law.

The only silver lining is that it IS possible to relieve yourself of the obligation to register as a sex offender by applying for a California certificate of rehabilitation.  But this option is only available seven to ten years after the end of your sentence--which can be a very long time for someone to live with the stigma of a sex offender registration requirement.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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