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A picture can be worth more than words with child pornography

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes. For St. Louis residents accused of child pornography crimes, however, a picture can be worth much more than just words; it can result in serious penalties if a person is convicted of the charged crime.

Child pornography offenses are unique in that they can be based solely on a person possessing images, even if the person did not create the images themselves or do any act depicted in the images. Child pornography charges can be brought in state or federal court, although there can be large differences in the case and the potential penalties depending on whether the charges are state or federal.

In Missouri, even the possession of one still image can be classified as a felony offense. However, the severity of the charge increases if the person has more photographs in his or her possession. For instance, the offense increases from a class C felony to a class B felony if the person has more than 20 still images of child pornography or obscene images, or if the person has one movie of child pornography.

Movies are typically considered to be more serious than still photographs under the statute, as one video can be worth multiple pictures in terms of the level of punishment. While the number of pictures or videos can increase the punishment, the person can also be subject to separate punishments for the different materials he or she is alleged to have possessed.

Accordingly, the number of pictures or videos in a particular case can be very important. As a result, an effective child pornography defense may center around reducing or eliminating the number of pictures or videos that are considered punishable under the statute. For example, if some pictures do not qualify as child pornography under the statutory definition, then they cannot be used against the person, and the punishment cannot be increased based on those pictures.

Source: Missouri Revised Statutes, "Chapter 573 Pornography and Related Offenses," accessed on Nov. 14, 2014

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