Possession of Obscene Matter: Penal Code 311, et. seq.

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Being accused of a child pornography crime is not something to take lightly.

Child pornography crimes in California, which are governed by the Penal Code 311 series, can carry serious consequences, including being sentenced to prison and lifelong registration as a sex offender.

If you have been accused of a Penal Code 311 child pornography crime, you need an experienced child pornography attorney on your side. With a strong defense, you may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed. 

What Is Child Pornography?

Child pornography includes any material—usually photographs or videos—depicting sexual conduct or simulated sexual conduct by someone under 18 years old.

For some child pornography charges, the material must also be obscene. This means that, on the whole, it shows sexual conduct in a way that is “patently offensive” and has no “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”

Child Pornography Crimes in California

There are several categories of child pornography crimes in California. Each of these carries serious potential consequences.

It is important to have a knowledgeable child pornography attorney to help you protect your rights and determine what defenses might be available to you.


To be charged with possession of child pornography, the prosecutor must prove:

  • You knowingly possessed child pornography, and
  • You knew the material depicted a person under 18.

A possession charge does not require proof that the material was obscene.

For first-time offenders, a possession charge in state court carries a sentence of up to three years in state prison and a fine up to $2,500.  (If probation is granted, the defendant can receive up to 365 days in the local jail.)

A federal court conviction for the same conduct carries a sentence of up to ten years in federal prison followed by up to life on supervised release.  


There are several variations of child pornography distribution crimes in PC 311, but all require proof that:

  • You distributed or offered to distribute child pornography to someone else;
  • The material was in California; and
  • You knew the material depicted someone under 18.

Sentences for distribution depend on the variant of the crime. Some factors that will determine which variation the prosecutor charges you with include:

  • Whether the material was obscene;
  • Whether you used the material for commercial consideration, i.e., in a way that would benefit you, financially or otherwise; and
  • Whether the person you distributed the material to was an adult or a minor.

For some variations, the prosecutor can elect whether to charge the crime as a felony or a misdemeanor, which will also affect the final sentence.

Sentences can range from one year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine all the way up to six years in state prison and a $100,000 fine. 

‘Additionally, federal convictions for distribution carry much more potential time in prison, including life in prison.   

Additional Crimes

Other child pornography crimes in California include:

  • Sexual exploitation of a child,
  • Employing a minor to perform sex acts,
  • Using a minor to engage in child pornography, and
  • Advertising child pornography.

The penalties for these crimes vary but can include:

  • Incarceration ranging from one year in county jail to six years in prison, and 
  • Fines ranging from $1,000 to $50,000.

A child pornography attorney can give you more detailed information about these various crimes and potential penalties.

Talk to a Child Pornography Attorney

If the state or the federal government has investigated or charged you with a child pornography crime, talk to a child pornography attorney in California right away. 

The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, have years of experience defending clients against child pornography charges.

We understand the stigma that comes with these kinds of charges, and we will provide sensitive and compassionate representation. 

Give us a call or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation. We can help you decide what defense strategy makes the most sense for your case.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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