Child Pornography in New Jersey

With the emergence of the internet and digital technology, there has continued to be a rise in the number of arrests associated with child pornography. The crime involves images of a sexually-explicit nature involving individuals under the age of 18. The New Jersey Attorney General's Advocacy Institute explains that many offenses are the result of internet file sharing. With recent advancements in conducting peer-to-peer investigations online, there has been a surge in the number of arrests.

New Jersey Enforcement Efforts

The New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is one of the regional agencies that investigate allegations of child pornography. They often work closely with the New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit that was founded in 1997 and focuses on the usage of computers for unlawful purposes including pornography. Law enforcement agencies in the state are now using computer forensics to track down potential offenders.

Data and Characteristics

A recent study shows that most victims of child pornography tend to experience somewhat long-term abuse. 83% of victims were first photographed before turning 12 years old. Roughly half of the offenders are family members. It is estimated that 23% of incidents are actually reported to agencies of law enforcement. Among those charged with the offense, approximately 88% are ultimately convicted.

New Jersey Offense Classifications

The state uses a unique terminology in classifying crimes that do not involve the typical felony or misdemeanor offense model. New Jersey has several categories including indictable offenses, disorderly person offenses, and petty disorderly person offenses. Indictable offenses are those that would otherwise be deemed as felonies in other jurisdictions. They are then further classified as being of the first through the fourth degree.

Endangering Welfare of Children (2C:24-4)

Crimes involving child pornography are commonly charged as child endangerment. The crime pertains to acts of child pornography as follows:

  • When a minor is exposed to explicit sexual activity in a manner that may “impair or debauch” their morals. This is typically charged as a third-degree offense; however, it is enhanced to a second-degree offense if committed by a parent, guardian, or another party responsible for the child.
  • Permitting a child to engage in sexual activity that is then photographed, filmed, or otherwise documented. This is typically charged as a second-degree offense; however, it is enhanced to a first-degree offense if committed by a parent, guardian, or another party responsible for the child.
  • Someone who photographs, films, or otherwise documents a child engaging in sexual activity may be charged with a second-degree offense.
  • Anyone who distributes, shares, or otherwise disseminates images or films of a child engaged in sexual activity may be charged with a second-degree offense.
  • It is a third-degree offense to possess such photos, videos, etc.

Leader of Child Pornography Network (2C:24-4.1)

An individual may be deemed as a leader of a child pornography network when they conspire with others to share materials that depict unlawful sexual activity involving minors. These offenses may involve organizing, managing, or facilitating a network that contains such material for a group of users. This is a first-degree offense if there are more than 100,000 depictions of children. It is a second-degree crime when there are between 1,000 and 100,000 depictions or a third-degree crime when less than 1,000 are involved.

Federal Child Pornography Law (18 U.S. Code § 2256) 

The federal government does have a law that is specific to child pornography. It defines the crime as taking photos, filming, or otherwise generating images that involve a child engaged in sexual acts. It is also a crime to modify or alter any existing photos so that it appears to suggest that a child is involved in sexual activity. To commit the offense it is not required that the child is actually engaged in sexual activity. It may involve a child who is naked being photographed or recorded in a “sexually suggestive” way.

The federal law supersedes any state laws that relate to a minor being old enough to consent to participate in sexual activity. New Jersey law states that those over the age of 16 may give consent to participate in sexual acts. First-time offenders may be subject to a lengthy prison sentence of between 15 and 30 years. Mere possession of such pornographic material may result in a prison sentence of five to 20 years. Penalties may be enhanced when the photos or videos suggest child abuse or violence.

Sex Offender Registry

Those who are convicted of sexually-based offenses of this severity are generally required to register as a sex offender in New Jersey. The offender registry is a database that is often referenced by members of law enforcement when investigating crimes. It is also available to members of the community who may be concerned about sex offenders that live or work in their vicinity.

The offender must diligently update any changes in their address of residence or place of employment. The sex offender registration program began in 1994 with the implementation of Megan's Law. Juveniles who commit sexually-based offenses may also be required to register. Sex offenders moving to New Jersey are required to register with the state within 10 days. The New Jersey State Police are primarily responsible for maintaining the registry.

DNA Sample Requirements

New Jersey enacted legislation that requires those charged with child pornography to submit a DNA sample. Samples of DNA are already taken and maintained in a database for other crimes from sexual assault to kidnapping and others. This requirement applies to those found in possession of pornography as well as those who produce or distribute such material.

Offense Level

Incarceration Period

Maximum Fine

First Offense

10 to 20 years

Up to $200,000

Second Degree

5 to 10 years

Up to $150,000

Third Degree

3 to 5 years

Up to $15,000

Fourth Degree

18 months

Up to $10,000

Disorderly Person Offense

6 months

Up to $1,000

Importance of Retaining an Experienced Defense Attorney

Allegations of child pornography or similar acts are viewed by law enforcement, the courts, and the general public as being particularly atrocious. The prosecutors of these cases may be more likely to impose the maximum penalties on those who are convicted. In situations of this magnitude, it is critical to seek assistance from an attorney who is very well-versed in this realm of legal practice.

New Jersey Defense Lawyer for Sexually-Based Offenses

Attorney Joseph D. Lento provides relentless legal defense for his clients throughout New Jersey. He will challenge the evidence and pursue a positive outcome on your behalf. For a confidential case consultation, contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

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When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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