Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

North Carolina Child Pornography Laws

North Carolina Child Pornography Laws

It is illegal under North Carolina state and federal law to produce, transport, share, receive or possess child pornography. Why? Because images of child pornography are not protected by the Constitution. It is considered a form of child sexual exploitation. In modern times, instances of child pornography can occur on a computer through the Internet or even on a smartphone.

Under North Carolina law, the following activities are felonies:

  • First-degree sexual exploitation of a minor (production of pornography) is a Class C felony carrying a sentence of 44 to 92 months for a first-time offender
  • Second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor (copying or distributing) is a Class E felony carrying a sentence of 15 to 31 months
  • Third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor (possession) is a Class H felony with a 4-8 month sentence

If the offender has prior convictions or if the image involved violence or sexual abuse of the child, he or she will face even harsher penalties.

Most convictions will lead to registration on the North Carolina Sex Offender list. Once registered, an individual may be on the list for life.

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

Code Sections

N.C. General Statute §14-190.16: First Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor (production)

N.C. General Statute §14-190.17: Second Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor (copying or distributing)

N.C. General Statute §14-190.17A: Third Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor (possession)

What is Prohibited

Possession: Anyone who knowingly possesses or seeks and accesses child pornographic material.

Distribution: Anyone who distributes, promotes, copies or finances the distribution (or conspires, attempts, or prepares) any "child sexually abusive material."

Production: Anyone who persuades, induces, entices, coerces, causes, or knowingly allows a child to engage in "child sexually abusive" activity.

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 "Child Sexually Abusive Material"

Any film, photograph, negative, slide, magazine, or other visual medium depiction, electronic visual image, computer or computer-generated image or sound recording which is of a child (under age 18) or appears to include a child engaging in a sexual act.

Mistake of Age Defense? Mistake of age is not a defense to a prosecution.
Mandatory State Sexual Offender Registry if Convicted?


Mandatory Reporting Requirement Computer technicians, information technology workers, and film developers must report child pornography to law enforcement if they encounter it in the scope of their work. The law doesn't require technicians or service providers to actively search for illegal material, only to report it if they find it.
Immunity from Civil Liability

The computer technician, information technology worker, or film developer can't be sued by the defendant under this law of the reporting was done in good faith.

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 States

Law Enforcement

  • North Carolina Department of Justice (919) 716-6400

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

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex cases usually require a lawyer
  • Experienced lawyers can seek to reduce or eliminate criminal penalties
  • Sexual assaults & sex crime convictions often have long sentences and lifelong consequences

Get tailored legal advice and ask a lawyer questions. Many attorneys offer free consultations.


 If you need an attorney, find one right now.

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options