Home Law Pornography Laws in California: Updated (2023)

Pornography Laws in California: Updated (2023)

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While pornographic content on the Internet is widespread, it crosses the line into criminal territory when it abuses minors or crosses the line into obscenity. It is illegal in all 50 states, not just California, to have children in pornographic internet content. Prison terms, monetary fines, and severe consequences may follow a conviction. It is strongly advised anybody suspected of or arrested for Internet pornography-related crimes immediately seek the advice of a qualified criminal defense attorney. In this article, we’ll talk about pornography laws in California and everything you need to know about them.

What Does California Consider To Be Pornography?

The pornographic and obscenity laws of California set the parameters for what may and cannot be considered adult material. While the word pornography is not defined by California law, it typically refers to any work that contains sexually explicit content with the intent of causing sexual pleasure or enjoyment. Obscenity is a more legally relevant word that is regulated by both state and federal legislation. Obscenity also refers to anything that is considered sexually explicit:

  • Prurient curiosity as in an unhealthy or excessive interest in sexual things
  • Offensive depiction or description of sexual activity
  • Overall, it doesn’t add to anything of literary, artistic, political, or scientific significance

The Definition of Child Pornography

Any visual portrayal, whether in print, film, or digital format, that sexually exploits or features children is considered child pornography. Any kind of child pornography is unlawful under Penal Code 311 PC, including possession, production, distribution, and participation. The law takes crimes involving child pornography very seriously and prescribes harsh punishments to ensure the safety of children.

Suppose you are found in possession of images, recordings, or computer files showing a minor, whether actual or simulated, engaging in a sexual act. In that case, you may be charged with child pornography.

Child Pornography Examples

As per the child pornography laws in California, it is conceivable to face accusations of child pornography in California even if you were not the one who physically generated or produced the pornographic material due to the broad scope of the state’s child pornography legislation.

  • If you own a print business and you enable someone to have pornographic pictures of kids printed so that they may be sent to consumers, you might be accused of creating and distributing child pornography.
  • Even if the sexual activity seen in a pornographic picture or film was voluntary, you might still face charges of creating child pornography. If you are a California resident and a high school student and you record a sexual interaction between two minors on your mobile device, you may be breaking the law.

It’s worth noting that pornographic photos in which no real individuals are featured are not covered by California’s child pornography statutes. What this implies is that under California law, you are not breaking the law if you watch or make an anime film that features sexual conduct with a juvenile. The same holds for visual media, such as cartoons, animations, and drawings.

Pornography Laws in California: Updated (2023)

The Elements of a Criminal Offense Concerning Child Pornography

The prosecution must show certain parts of the pornography laws in California beyond a reasonable doubt to win a conviction on child pornography charges. The age of the minor represented in the photos or videos, the defendant’s intent to possess or distribute the material, and the inclusion of sexually explicit content involving a child are the usual components necessary to prove a case.

Child Pornography Laws in California: 

In California, child pornography punishments are always case-specific. Most criminal charges are wobblers, which means they may be either felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances. In California, a misdemeanor conviction for child pornography carries a maximum of one year in county prison and a $2,000 fine.

A conviction for child pornography in a criminal case carries a possible jail term of between 16 months and eight years in a state prison. The maximum monetary penalty is $100,000. If you are convicted of child pornography, you may be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.

The California Sexual Offender Database

The state of California has a database of sexually violent felons. Friends, acquaintances, future employers, and landlords may all look you up on this public database. If you are listed on California’s sex offender register, you may find it challenging to locate gainful employment or safe housing.

To further complicate things, the Law in California forbids sexual offenders to reside within two thousand feet of any area where children congregate (such as a school, park, or playground). While the state has eased off on this requirement recently, parole officers may still use it to their advantage.

Additional Prohibitions on Pornography

Section 311.4 of the California Penal Code makes it unlawful to distribute or promote obscene information to attract a minor. This is a grave crime with severe consequences. You might spend up to 8 years in jail if you’re found guilty. 

  • Victims of revenge porn, or the dissemination of sexually explicit photographs or films without the intended recipient’s consent, are similarly shielded by California law.
  • Without the consent of the subject shown, it is unlawful to upload or distribute sexually explicit photos online. This is punishable by fines and maybe prison time. You might go to prison for up to 6 months and have to pay a fine of up to $1,000 if you are found guilty.
  • A skilled defense attorney should be consulted immediately upon being accused of a pornographic offense. If you have an attorney on your side from the start, the legal procedure should move more smoothly. In addition, a skilled defense attorney will be aware of the legal arguments to use on your behalf.


Seek immediate legal counsel if you or a loved one in California is charged with child pornography. If convicted, you might go to jail, pay heavy penalties, lose your good name, and be labeled a sex offender in the eyes of the law. An experienced sex crime attorney will investigate the allegations leveled against you and start working on your defense right away.

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