Call for a FREE consultation at (713) 222-6767

Legal Blog

Woman looking at computer in dark room

The Difference Between Viewing and Possessing Child Porn

Published: Oct 12, 2020 in Child Sex Crimes, Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes, Sex Crimes Involving Children

Did you know there is a difference between viewing and possessing child porn in Texas? Generally speaking, possessing child pornography is always illegal, whereas simply viewing it is not necessarily illegal.

What’s more important, however, is the issue of whether your alleged viewing or possessing was knowing and intentional. For example, unknowingly possessing child pornography is not illegal. If you borrow a friend’s computer and unbeknownst to you it contains child porn, you have not engaged in a crime.

If you or a loved one are facing child pornography charges in Harris County Texas, contact a Houston child sex crime lawyer from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 for a free and confidential case consultation.

Texas Laws on Viewing and Possessing Child Porn

According to section 43.26 of the Texas Penal Code, it is a felony to knowingly or intentionally possess or access with the intent to view visual material depicting someone under 18 years of age while they are engaging in sexual conduct. For this, you face the following penalties:

  • First offense (third-degree felony)- Two to 10 years in prison, and fines reaching $10,000
  • Second offense (second-degree felony)- Two to 20 years in prison, and fines reaching $10,000
  • Third and subsequent offenses (first-degree felonies)- Five to 99 years or life in prison, and fines reaching $10,000

The Difference Between Viewing & Posessing

Texas law lumps viewing and possessing into the same offense, but this does not mean that all viewing is illegal. The statute doesn’t outlaw viewing per se, but it prohibits accessing child pornography with the intent to view.

This is an important distinction. Because there can be many situations in which you might inadvertently see child pornography, Texas law doesn’t punish the simple act of viewing. Instead, the law punishes the deliberate acts you take in order to view child pornography.

Viewing & Possessing Child Porn Under Federal Law

Similar to Texas law, 18 U.S. Code Section 2252(4) prohibits knowingly possessing or accessing with intent to view materials depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The penalty for a first offense is up to 10 years in federal prison unless the children depicted are younger than 12, in which case the maximum sentence increases to 20 years.

How a Houston Child Sex Crimes Lawyer Can Help

At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we fight for our clients at every stage of the criminal justice process – from the initial investigation to the sentencing hearing.

We believe that aggressive advocacy in the early stages can vastly improve the chances of a beneficial outcome, liek having the charges dismissed or reduced, and Ned Barnett’s outstanding record proves it.

If you are under investigation for possessing or accessing child porn in the Houston area, contact us today for a free case evaluation at (713) 222-6767.