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Internet Porn – What are the rules in Orange County, CA?

Can looking at pornography in your own home on your computer lead to criminal charges? Like most aspects of law the answer is not so simple, but the short answer is YES. However, looking at adult pornography in your own home is not what can get you into trouble. It is child pornography that is illegal.

There are two aspects of so called cyber porn that involve children. One is the issue of children or minors looking at porn on the internet. Many courts have ruled that software is available to protect minors from inadvertently viewing pornography online. Adult pornography, whether on the internet or elsewhere is considered a protected part of free speech and therefore cannot be prohibited. Groups have tried to prevent internet porn on the basis that children could easily be subjected to porn on the internet but consistently courts have considered protective software preferable to an abridgment to the first amendment right to free speech.

The second issue is that of the actual depiction of children in pornography. Courts have ruled that child pornography is not protected by the first amendment and is therefore subject to criminal penalties. It can be a crime to knowingly posses, sell, receive, send or transmit child pornography through the internet.

Here is where the problem can come in. Looking at adult porn online is not illegal but it can lead inadvertently to child pornography. It can be sent to you even if you do not ask for it and don’t want it. It can be part of a web site you are visiting and you may not even know it is there. If you download it, even unknowingly, it is now on your computer. True, it is not a crime unless you knowingly possess it, but it will be very hard to prove that if it’s on your computer, you didn’t know it was there or want it. The internet can be a very tricky place to navigate. Often, one site leads to another and without even intending it, you can be looking at sites that are completely illegal.