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Massachusetts Child Pornography Laws

In Massachusetts, child pornography crimes are divided into three general categories: possession, distribution, and creating or allowing a child to engage in child pornography. What does that mean? Basically, if you knowingly posses child pornography, distribute it to others, or create or encourage a child to take part in child pornography, you can be in violation of the law.

A Massachusetts child pornography conviction carries severe penalties including prison time, fines, a long probationary sentence, a criminal record, and sex offender registration.

What about Free Speech?

Images of child pornography are not considered protected speech by the Constitution. They are internet sex crimes and a form of child sexual exploitation. In modern times, instances of child pornography occur more frequently on the internet or even on a smartphone (such as "sexting"). Most convictions will lead to registration with the Sexual Offender Registry Board. Once registered, an individual may be on the list for life.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Massachusetts child pornography laws. See Cyber Crimes, Sex Crimes, and Crimes Against Children for more information.

Code Sections

Possession: MGL c.272, s.29C

Dissemination/Distribution: MGL c.272, s.29B:

Creating child pornography: MGL c.272, s.29A

What is Prohibited

Possession: Knowingly possessing visual or printed matter depicting a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. .

Distribution: With "lascivious intent" knowingly and purposefully disseminating or possesing (with intent to distribute) any visual material that exhibits child nudity or sexual conduct.

Creating/allowing child pornography: With "lascivious intent," hiring, soliciting, coercing, enticing, employing, procuring, using, causing, encouraging, or knowingly permitting a child to pose or be exhibited in a state of nudity, for the purpose of representation or reproduction in any visual material, knowing or having reason to know the child is under 18 years old.

First Amendment Protections?

Child pornography is not protected speech covered by the First Amendment.

Definition of a "Minor"

A person under 18 years of age

Definition of "Lascivious intent"

Factors that help prove "lascivious intent" may include:

  • Depictions of sexual behavior, sexual relations, infamous conduct of a lustful or obscene nature, deviation from accepted customs and manners, or sexually oriented displays;
  • The focal point of a visual depiction is the child’s genitalia, pubic area, or breast area of a female child;
  • Whether the setting or pose of a visual depiction is generally associated with sexual activity;
  • Whether the child is depicted in an unnatural pose or inappropriate attire, considering the child’s age;
  • Whether the depiction denotes sexual suggestiveness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity;
  • Whether the depiction is of a child engaging in or being engaged in sexual conduct, including

a) sexual intercourse,

b) unnatural sexual intercourse or bestiality;

c) masturbation;

d) sado-masochistic behavior, or

e) lewd exhibition of the genitals.


Possession: First Conviction: Up to 5 (five) years in state prison, $10,000 fine. Second Conviction: 5 ( five) year minimum mandatory state prison sentence. Third conviction carries a ten year minimum mandatory state prison sentence.

Distribution Up to 20 years in state prison, $50,000 fine or up to 3 times the economic value of gain derived from dissemination of the material.

Creating/Allowing Child Pornography: 10 years (minimum mandatory) up to 20 years in state prison
$50,000 fine.

Mandatory Sex Offender Registration

Yes a conviction will also require you to register with the Sex Offender Registry Board.

Federal Child Pornography Crimes

Child pornography is also a federal crime. Federal laws addressing child pornography are:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 2251- Sexual Exploitation of Children
    (Production of child pornography)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2251A- Selling and Buying of Children
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252- Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors (Possession, distribution and receipt of child pornography)
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252A- Certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2260- Production of sexually explicit depictions of a minor for importation into the United State

Law Enforcement

Because criminal laws can sometimes get complicated, it may also be a good idea to consult an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.

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